Wealthy Minds

Guide to Spending Your Time Intentionally

Yesterday I was on a call with an old friend of mine, and she asked a question about how to spend her time more intentionally.

Her key insight for me was that a lot of people in the program (and I think many people reading this blog) would like to do the same thing.

How do we spend our days with more intentionality?

How do we stop from just going through it on autopilot, just running to distractions and busywork all the time, just getting through things? How do we keep from feeling overwhelmed and lost at sea? How do we change our habit of being too busy, never having time for the things we want to spend our life on?

The answer isn’t simple, but I’ve created a guide for spending your time intentionally, things that I’ve been implementing in my life.

Let’s walk through this guide step-by-step.

The Mindset of Not Enough Time

Before we get into practical steps, it’s important to address the mindset that many of us have, which just gets in the way:

  • That we don’t have enough time

  • That we’re too busy, or have too much on our plate

These are just stories that we have in our heads, and they’re not really true. We have enough time, and we’re not too busy. We just need to let go of those stories, those complaints about our time, and instead adopt a new mindset.

The mindset is that we have complete ownership over our time. This comes from Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap, where he tells us that we are the creators of our time.

When we complain that we don’t have enough time, we are avoiding taking ownership over an area in our lives. When we say, “I don’t have enough time for this activity,” we are really saying, “I don’t want to do it.”

Instead, we choose to do everything else, and then shirk taking responsibility for that.

What if we could drop our complaints, and take full ownership over our time? That means intentionally deciding how we want to spend the hours we have available.

What if we could be fully present and fully in love with the activities we choose to do? Instead of going through the motions, we show up fully, whole-heartedly?

Ask yourself where you are avoiding taking ownership of your time. Ask yourself how you can take full ownership of that area of your life.

Then ask how you can show up fully, not just doing the activity zombie-like, but with full presence.

Start Your Intentionality with Small Blocks

You’re not going to magically transform into a master of intentionality, spending every second of your day intentionally.

Instead, you’re going to pick a small block of time and practice. Then just two small blocks of time. And so on.

Let’s start with a couple questions:

  • What would be the most important and loving thing you could do with 30 minutes of your time each day?

  • If you could only do one thing today and be satisfied with that, what would it be?

You want to think of the one thing you could do that would change your life in some way: for me, it’s writing this post or creating a new course. For you, it might be meditation or starting that non-profit you’ve been wanting to start. Maybe you want to create videos or start a T-shirt business. Maybe it’s getting your finances in order.

Pick one activity that would make the most difference.

Then set up an intentional block of time at the beginning of each day, and spend it on this one activity. For example, if I want to write every day, I’ll set up a writing block of 30-60 minutes at the start of every day — before email and messaging and checking websites.

It could be a block devoted to starting your business, where you do different activities each day that move you closer to getting launched.

Now here are your intentional guidelines:

  1. Pause and decide beforehand what you’re going to do. Don’t just let yourself drift with the currents of your online world, but at least for these 30 minutes, have an intention.

  2. Know your Why. Why does this matter to you? Are you helping to serve another person, a group, the world? Is this a deeply loving act for yourself or others? Keep this Why in your heart as you move through the activity.

  3. Notice your tendency to rush through. Maybe you just want to get this done. That’s how most of us move through almost everything. That’s like when we sit down to meditate but are just trying to get to the end — an indicator of how we do every activity. What’s the point? This is why we feel so busy — because we’re rushing through everything we do, in a hurry to get to the next thing. Instead, try being fully with the activity.

  4. Try falling in love with the activity. Instead of going through the motions, what if you could be fully in love with this moment, with what’s in front of you, with the activity itself? With the opportunity to serve?

  5. Don’t let yourself be distracted. We have a mental habit of switching to other things, almost immediately after starting something. Instead, be a “Sacred No” to everything else (see next section), and be fully with this activity. Do nothing else.

Learn the Art of the Sacred “No”

One of my teachers taught me the term, “Be a Sacred No.” For me, that means that what we have chosen to do can become sacred, something we’re fully committed to … and then we can be a Sacred “No” to everything else that tries to interfere with that sacred space we’ve created.

Imagine that this 30 minutes you’ve set up for yourself at the beginning of your day is a sacred space — it is so important that you’ve created something very intentional instead of just letting it mix in with everything else you have to do. You carved out the time. You deliberated on your Why, and kept the love of those you serve in your heart.

You are fully devoted to this activity. You are deeply committed, like you’ve never committed to anything else in your life.

And when distractions come up, or someone asks you to have coffee during this time, or there are other demands on your attention … you become a Sacred “No” to all of that. So that you can be a Sacred “Yes” to what you are fully committed to.

Expanding Into an Intentional Day

Once you practice with one sacred block of time that you spend with intentionality … you might want to expand that slowly into the rest of your day. I recommend doing it one sacred block per week (blocks of 30-60 minutes).

Here’s what I suggest:

  • Put your tasks into categories. What are the things you want to spend your time on? For me, that might be creating content, answering messages and emails, doing various admin tasks, doing calls with coaching clients, and meeting or otherwise working with my team. I also have personal things like reading with my kids, meditating, exercising, and doing errands. Group the things you want to do into categories like this.

  • Prioritize the categories. Of your list of categories, which are the most important? Which are less important? This is important if you want to be intentional about your time. You are taking ownership of how you spend your time.

  • Put the most important ones first. If writing is your most important block of time, put that early in the day, before the other stuff. You’re more likely to do it if you put it first. What’s next most important? Put that second.

  • Batch the smaller ones later. If there are less important things that you still need to do during the day, batch them together and put them later in the day. For example, emails and admin tasks — put them all into one block, and have them in the afternoon. You can scan your email quickly earlier in the day, after your most important block, but don’t spend much time on it. This way your smaller tasks get done, but they don’t block your important ones.

  • Spend 5 minutes being intentional about your day. Take just 5 minutes at the beginning of each day to be intentional about how you want to spend your time. How do you want to block out the day? What are you avoiding? What is most important to you today? Can you take ownership and move into each activity with full devotion?

  • Review at the end of each day. Spend a couple minutes before you go to sleep reviewing how you did that day. Were you intentional? Did you take 5 minutes at the beginning of the day? Did you do the important things first? Did you do each activity with full intention, fully present, with the devotion for those you serve in your heart? How could you step up your intention and commitment even more? This is how you continue to move into intentionality over time.

The Joy of Letting Go

At the end of the day, you won’t get everything done on your task list. There will be a feeling of, “I can’t get everything done, I don’t have enough time.”

Actually, again, that’s just a story you tell yourself. In truth, it’s physically impossible to do every possible thing you could do. You only have one body, and so much time. So we have to decide how we spend our time, with intentionality. That’s taking ownership — you decide what to do with the time you’re given. Do you learn to surf or do you write a book? That’s your choice.

And so, accepting that we are choosing how to best spend our time, we can then accept that we have to let go of the rest. We can’t do everything. In fact, if we tried to do everything, we’d do everything poorly. We are owning the fact that we choose to do these things, to be fully there with them, and to do them as best we can, fully and with love.

Then we let go of the rest. We are a Sacred “No” to them, so that we can be a loving yes to what we’ve intentionally decided to spend our lives doing.

-AG

Don't limit yourself.

Your life is your own. Don’t waste it trying to be what others expect you to be. Don’t sacrifice your happiness to make everybody happy. Don’t give up on your dreams to build other people’s dreams. Your life is your own.

You can’t let people scare you. You can’t go your whole life trying to please everyone else. You can’t go through life worried about what everyone else is going to think. You can’t let the judgement of others stop you from being you. Because if you do, you are no longer you. You’re someone everyone else wants you to be. 

Commit yourself to your own magnificence. Every time you look into a mirror, remind yourself that what stares back at you is not an every-changing body, but an invisibleness that is truly your highest self. Affirm: I’am love, I’am love, I’am worthy, I’am infinite, silently and out loud. Do this frequently so that it eventually becomes your inner mantra. This will help you abandon old patterns you’ve carried that have injured your personal relationship to the universe and all of the inherent beauty and perfection it holds. You will awaken to the incredible miracle that you are.

BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE! 

-AG

LOCATION: Disneyland, CA / PC: Philippe Villarubia

LOCATION: Disneyland, CA / PC: Philippe Villarubia

LOCATION: VANS HQ / Costa Mesa, CA

LOCATION: Crooks & Castle HQ / Los Angeles, CA

LOCATION: The Art Institute of California - Orange County / Costa Mesa, CA

The Practice of Letting Go

There are a number of times when our mind clings to something tightly, and it is rarely helpful:

  • “I am right, the other person is wrong.”

  • “That person is living their life in the wrong way, they should change.”

  • “My preference is the best way, others are wrong.”

  • “This is the thing I want, I don’t want anything else.”

  • “I really don’t like that, it sucks.”

  • “I should have that person in my life, loving me.”

  • “I shouldn’t be alone, shouldn’t be overweight, shouldn’t be however I am, shouldn’t have this life.”

In all of these cases, and more, our minds are fixed in a certain viewpoint, and we often judge others. We complain. We are attached to what we want and what we don’t want.

It leads to stress. Unhappiness. Anger. Righteousness. Being judgmental. Distancing ourselves from others. Closed-offedness.

And it leads to being closed off to the beauty of this moment, as it is, full of openness and possibilities.

If you’d like to work on letting go, I would like to offer a simple practice.

The Practice of Letting Go

You can actually practice this all day long, because even if we don’t realize it, we’re clinging and hardening and fixing upon viewpoints all day long.

Here’s how to practice:

  1. Start by realizing that you’re hardened. Notice that you are stressed, upset at someone, feeling like you’re right, complaining about someone or a situation, not open to other viewpoints, putting something off, avoiding, tensed. These are good signs that you are holding on, hardened in your viewpoint, fixed, attached, clinging. Get good at noticing this.

  2. Notice the tension in your body. It’s a tightening that happens from your stomach muscles, through your chest, into your throat, up to your forehead. Think of this as your central column, and it tightens up when you think you’re right, or someone else is wrong, or you really want something or don’t want something.

  3. Start to relax those tightened muscles. This is the heart of changing from holding on to letting go. Whatever is tight in your central column, relax. Try it right now. What is tight? Relax that. Soften.

  4. Open your awareness beyond yourself. Once you’ve done this (and you might have to repeat the relaxing, multiple times), you can open your awareness from just your own body and your self-concern, to the world around you. Become aware of the space around you, the people and objects, the light and sound. Open your awareness to the neighborhood around you.

  5. Become aware of openness & possibilities. With your mind opening, you can start to feel more open. Your mind is no longer closed, but has made space for possibilities. You are not fixated on one right way, but are open to everything. This is the beauty of not-knowing.

  6. Open to the beauty that is before you. Now that you are not fixated on rightness or your way or the way things should or shouldn’t be … you can take in the actual moment before you. You’ve emptied your cup, and made room for seeing things as they actually are, and appreciating the beauty of this moment, the beauty of other people, and of yourself.

  7. Step forward with a not-knowing openness. From this place of relaxing your fixed mind, of opening up … take the next step with a stance of not-knowing. You don’t know how things should be, let’s find out! You don’t know if you’re right or wrong, let’s explore! You don’t know the answers, you just hold the questions in your heart, and move into open possibilities.

It’s that simple. And of course, it takes a lot of practice. You can do this at any moment, but it’s helpful to have a short time of day when you set a reminder and then take a few moments to sit still and practice with whatever you’ve been clinging to today.

When we practice like this, we are shifting from our habitual patterns of self-concern and shutting out all possibilities, to openness and not-knowing, to unlimited possibilities and seeing the breath-taking beauty of the world in front of us.

-AG

How to Savor Life

LOCATION: Canada Pavilion - EPCOT

‘Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.’ -Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s still dark out and the world remains asleep as I write these words, and I’ve just finished my morning meditation.

I sip my coffee, and savor the stillness, the quietude, the space of being able to think without distractions of the Internet or others.

This savoring … it’s a magical act.

Savoring is usually applied to eating good food: take a single square of dark chocolate and put it in your mouth, but don’t chew and swallow it. Let it sit there, as you savor it, noticing its earthy notes, hints of citrus, the richness of its texture as it melts in your mouth. You swallow it almost regretfully after letting it linger, fully appreciating the delicousness of it, giving pause to think about the people who grew the beans, who roasted and grinded them and hand-crafted them into this square of joy.

But savoring food is just the start: you can savor anything, and you should. It’s wonderful. And it changes everything.

Savoring can teach you to be mindful, to stop procrastinating, to finally exercise, to eat less and more healthfully, to live life in the present, and much more.

Let’s look at how. And, as you read this, I urge you to slow down from your usual busy practice of reading quickly, and savor the reading of this humbling blog post of mine.

The Practice

The savoring of a square of dark chocolate is a great practice you can do once a day. I like to use tea, taught to me by one of my friends of 7 Leaves Cafe, because it is so light (compared to sweet coffee drinks) that you have to really pay attention to get the most out of it.

When you savor tea, or chocolate, or a handful of berries … you slow down. You pay close attention — the closer the attention, the more you’ll get out of the savoring. You don’t rush to the next thing, but stop and give some space to the activity. You aren’t worried about what you have to do later, you are fully enjoying the present.

This is savoring, and it takes practice. You can do it right now, wherever you are: pause and look around you and savor this very moment. Even if it doesn’t seem to be special, because let’s face it you’ve done what you’re doing a thousand times, savor it. Fully appreciate the gift you’ve been given.

This is a practice you can do several times a day — find a few rituals for savoring, like enjoying your morning tea or coffee, or taking a bath, or reading to your child, or having a tea ritual in the mid-afternoon, or snuggling with a loved one. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Procrastination

We procrastinate because we are uncomfortable doing something and want to do more comfortable (easier or more familiar) things instead. We don’t want to write that report/article/chapter, because it’s difficult, and it’s easier to check emails and take care of a bunch of little tasks. It’s easier to put off those dreaded tasks.

But savoring can help. Let’s take writing as an example (the process is the same for anything, from cleaning your room to doing taxes) … you have something to write and you know it’s important. The usual way is to say, “OK, I should write this, but first maybe I’ll check to see if anything important came into my email … and maybe my Twitter and Facebook too … oh, what’s this interesting article I found?”

When we savor, we take this task of writing, and we slow down. We give the task some space — no switching quickly to the next thing. We pay attention to it and find the enjoyable aspects of it. And actually, there are enjoyable aspects to any activity, if we slow down and pay attention. When we savor, we notice these things, and fully enjoy them. We bask in the moment of doing, and let ourselves soak in its pleasure.

So instead of switching to something else, we sit there with the writing. We notice our urge to switch and let it go — after all, we’re savoring this, so we can’t just switch! We think of other things we need to do, and let them go too. We’re savoring here.

And we just do the writing, and notice how our fingers feel as they move over the keys, and enjoy the pouring of our thoughts onto the screen, and notice our breathing, our shoulders, our jaw, our legs, our feet, as we sit and write. We know that many people are not lucky enough to be able to do something so luxurious as writing, and so we are grateful for this moment, however fleeting.

Doing the Perfect Thing Right Now

A constant source of anxiety for most people, in this day when we can do almost anything at any moment, is: “Am I doing the right thing, right now?” Should I be exercising instead? Should I be checking what else is going on, in my social networks? Are other people doing something better? Is there a better way to do this, a better tool, a smarter method, a faster way?

When you savor, this anxiety can melt away. You are savoring this activity, so you let the thoughts of everything else go away, and immerse yourself. You give it space and just do this, and fully appreciate it. And so you know that you’re doing the perfect thing, right now, whatever it is, because nothing can be a delicious as savoring this moment.

Living in the Present

Savor everything you do, every experience. There is no moment that cannot be savored — even those routine moments, even those times when you’re having a conflict with someone else, even those times when you’re alone with nothing to do.

Savoring is about learning to live presently, to fully enjoy the gift of each moment, to give that moment the space and attention it deserves. It takes practice, but it’s a delicious practice.

-AG


‘As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.’ -Buddha

The Practice of One Thing at a Time

There’s a Japanese term, “ichigyo-zammai,” that basically means full concentration on a single act.

Sunryu Suzuki described this practice in his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and said this practice of being fully in the moment with the activity is enlightened activity.

“So instead of having some object of worship, we just concentrate on the activity which we do in each moment,” Suzuki Roshi wrote. “When you bow, you should just bow; when you sit, you should just sit; when you eat, you should just eat.”

He said when we just do that one activity, we express our true nature.

What a beautiful idea, that when we aren’t present, our true nature cannot fully express itself … but when we are truly just doing whatever we’re doing, we start to express our true selves.

But it’s easier said than done. How often are we not in the moment?

Think about times when we are:

  • Jumping between tasks in a browser

  • Checking our phones while doing other things throughout the day

  • In a rush to do the next thing while still doing the current thing

  • Thinking about other things when someone is talking to us

  • Irritated by someone when they interrupt whatever we’re doing

  • Taking whatever we’re doing for granted, because it’s dull or routine

It turns out, we are very rarely fully in the moment with any single activity. How can we try this enlightened activity of full concentration on one act?

How to Do One Thing at a Time

These are as much reminders to myself as they are reminders for you, but here’s what I’ve been practicing with:

  1. When you start an activity, turn to it with your full attention and set an intention to be present with the act, to do nothing but this activity. You might think, “Just walk” or “Just read” or “Just drink tea.”

  2. You might open up a wide-open, sky-like panoramic awareness as you do the activity, being fully engaged with the entire moment.

  3. When you notice yourself thinking about something else, or getting your attention pulled elsewhere, or starting down a pattern of judgment, resentment, etc. … just notice. Then return to being fully present with the activity.

  4. Empty your mind of preconceived ideas about the activity, and just be curious about what the activity is actually like, right now, as it unfolds. Allow yourself to be surprised.

  5. Treat every object with reverence, as if it were your own eyesight.

  6. See the brilliance of each moment, of each activity, that underlies everything around us.

Just write. Just shower. Just give someone your full attention.

As we give each activity our full loving attention, we start to appreciate each person, each object, everything around us as something worthy of respect, love, and gratitude.

We start to take life up on the opportunity to fully engage with it, with a smile and a bow.

-AG

The Beautiful and Scary Practice of Moving Closer

Life is full of all kinds of stresses, and each of us has habitual ways of reacting to those stresses — we procrastinate, run to comforts, lash out or distance ourselves from others, try to exit from a stressful place, mentally complain about others.

The sad effect of these habitual reactions is that they move us further away from others, and from the direct experience of the moment.

Let’s take a quick example: If you are hurt by the way someone is acting, your habitual reaction might be complaining about them, taking offense, getting angry (all of these or a combo). Then you shut them out, closing your heart to them, moving away from them.

The effect of this is that you’ve now distanced yourself from the other person. And I submit that this is the cause of most of our relationship problems, work issues, violence, racism, political strife, and wars.

Closing our hearts to others and creating distance from them out of habitual reaction to stress is the heart of aggression, violence and pain.

We do the same thing when it comes to our direct experience of the moment — if we’re bored, unhappy with our situation, unhappy with ourselves, stressed or tired … we habitually try to find comfort in food, drink, drugs, online distractions, TV or videos, shopping, porn, drowning everything out with music, and so on. We are moving away from the present moment, shutting out the world around us.

Moving ourselves away from the direct experience of this moment, out of habitual reaction, is the heart of our unhappiness and disconnect from life.

These are all based on the same problem — we have habitual reactions to stress, and those habitual reactions move us further from other people. From life itself. From ourselves.

Today, I’d like to offer you a practice that I’ve been exploring myself: the beautiful practice of moving closer.

It is scary, shaky, and transformative.

It goes like this:

  1. Notice that you’re feeling some kind of stress — anxiety, pain, struggle, frustration, overwhelm, sadness.

  2. Notice your habitual reaction to that stress: you procrastinate, try to exit, shut someone out, complain, run to one of your comforts, hide, quit, run away, lash out, yell, hit, medicate, etc.

  3. Refrain from indulging in your habitual reaction. Instead, just remain still. Instead of complaining, do nothing. Instead of spinning around a narrative about the other person and shutting them out, do nothing. Just refrain.

  4. Breathe deeply into the sensations in your body. When you refrain from your habitual reaction, you are left with an energy in your body that still really wants to do the habitual thing. It will be a strong urge. You just sit still. You do nothing. But you breathe deeply and relax around the energy in your body. Notice how it feels, in your torso. Be curious about it. Stay with it. Be present with it. Welcome it. Give it compassion.

  5. Now, move closer. Someone else stressing you out? After refraining from complaining about them, move closer to them. Open your heart and be fully present with them. Be completely loving. Yes, sometimes you have to physically protect yourself — but that doesn’t mean you have to shut down your heart. You can love the person who has hurt you, without letting them continue to hurt you. Maybe it’s not a person but a situation (or yourself) that’s stressing you out. You are filled with discomfort and uncertainty. You refrain from your habitual reaction, and instead you move closer to the direct experience of this moment. You open your heart to the world, and love it as it is. You love yourself as you are.

Continue to move closer. Continue to reopen your heart. From this place, see what action you need to take. Not from the place of habitual reaction.

It’s an incredibly beautiful practice. And yes, it’s filled with shakiness. That makes it even more courageous.

-AG

A Guide to a Life of Purpose

You don’t have to be making a living off of your passion — as long as you feel you are doing something meaningful, and you care deeply about those who you’re serving.

The training has to be about something bigger than yourself. It’s not just about self-improvement, but growth to serve others.

Two big reasons it’s important to have some kind of purpose bigger than yourself:

  1. You need a deep reason: If you don’t have a deeper reason for doing the training, you’ll wuss out when things get hard. And when things get hard, that’s when things get really good. That’s when true change happens.

  2. You need to get out of your closed-in world: Much of the time, we’re very concerned about ourselves. About how we look, about what people think about us, about whether we’re being treated right, about why they have to be like that to us, whether we’ll get what we want, about whether we’re good enough. Our self-concern is natural, but it closes us in to a very small world of self-concern that makes us less happy, less content.

Let’s look at these a little closer. And then talk about how to find your deeper purpose, and beyond that, how to live a life of purpose.

A Deeper Reason to Push Into Discomfort

Imagine this: you decide to go into a weeklong meditation retreat, because it would be nice to be more mindful. Sounds really nice, right?

But then you get to the retreat, and after a brief intro, they have you sit and meditate. Then walk a bit, in silence, meditating as you walk. Then sitting in meditation. Repeat until you eat in silence. Go to bed early, because tomorrow you’re going to meditate all day, speaking to no one. As you get to your room, you realize this is way harder than you thought when you fantasized about it.

You get through the second day, but again in your room, you start to think about escaping. You don’t want to do this anymore. You don’t really care about this meditation enough to keep doing it when your hips are sore, your back is tired, your mind is tired.

This is a key juncture: do you quit or do you keep training?

The truth is that if you can push into the discomfort, with love, and keep going … it’ll be an amazing breakthrough for you, an opening up of your habitual patterns. It’ll be a place of growth, of learning, of tremendous change.

This is the kind of training that you need to put yourself in if you want to grow. Not a meditation retreat, necessarily, but any kind of practice that makes you want to retreat. It doesn’t have to be hardcore, just something that causes you to be uncomfortable, that causes your old habitual patterns to come up.

At this point, if you have something you care about — a group of people you really love, who you want to serve — you can stay in this place of discomfort and growth.

If you don’t, you’ll probably run. Because why put yourself through that?

You need the deeper reason.

A Way Out of Our Closed-In World

Besides giving you a deeper reason to push into discomfort … having a purpose expands your world.

Most of us live worried about ourselves most of the time, worried about whether or not:

  • We get what we want

  • We’re in discomfort, pain, illness

  • We have bodies we like

  • Other people are treating us nicely or fairly

  • People think highly of us or not

  • Things are difficult, stressful, overwhelming

  • Things go the way we like, things are orderly, things are pleasurable

And so forth. We want what we want, we want others to be nice to us and think highly of us, we want to be happy and good looking, etc.

But this is a narrow world. It’s small — focused only on ourselves and what we want or don’t want.

Having a bigger purpose, focused on helping others, broadens that world. It expands our view so that we’re thinking of others and ourselves, and how we are all interconnected.

It’s a much more fulfilling way to live.

How to Find the Purpose

That’s all great, but how do you find your purpose if you don’t have a clue where to start looking?

There are two guiding principles:

  1. Clear away all distractions, and

  2. Listen deeply

If you don’t have a clear purpose yet, if you haven’t found work or an activity that gives you fulfillment and meaning … it would help to make looking for that your main purpose. Your entire focus is on seeking a purpose.

So clear everything out, and have no distractions. Simplify things so that you can start looking. Clear your schedule as much as you can, drop your commitments to the extent that you can (as they’re not meaningful to you anyway).

Then do this:

  1. Make a list of everything you do right now. Which ones give you meaning and fulfillment? Which don’t?

  2. Make a list of things you’ve done in the past that have given you meaning. Are there any connections between them? Any connections to the ones on your current list?

  3. Open to suffering in your life. Things become more meaningful when you’ve been through suffering — it’s not something to be avoided, but something to work with, something to grow with, a path to deeper meaning. Think about the most meaningful experiences in your life — they probably involved other people, and they probably involved some kind of suffering.

  4. Take time in silence. Out in nature, on a couch meditating. Use the silence to listen — to your heart, to the infinite, to your deeper consciousness. Really listen. Open yourself to not knowing.

  5. Open to the not knowing even as you interact with others and read books and online articles. What are people saying that feels meaningful? What inspiration can you find?

  6. Open yourself to others: their challenges, their feedback.

  7. Listening, listening … then pick something and take action. You won’t really know until you get started, so pick anything that feels remotely right: volunteer, work at a non-profit, write a blog or a book, start recording something, find someone to help as best you can. Get started, take action, and see what happens.

You do not have to have the perfect answer to get started. That’s a need for perfection, a need for knowing. Instead, embrace not-knowing, and just start.

How to Live a Life of Purpose

Once you’ve found an approximation of your purpose, some kind of meaningful activity … now it’s time to live a life of deeper purpose.

There’s no one way to do that … but here are some ideas:

  1. Start to cultivate a list of guiding principles. Gather them from books, from things that speak to you, from things you’ve learned over the years. These are not things you need to be hardened around, but values and ideas that seem to guide you well. Keep the list somewhere visible. Live by these principles as much as you can, adjusting your behavior regularly if needed, tossing out or revising principles as you learn, not holding to them too tightly.

  2. Keep your purpose front of mind. Every day, reflect on your purpose. How are you living it? How can you go deeper or expand with it? What one or two things can you do today to serve that purpose?

  3. Set an intention with each task. If you’re going to write an article, record a video, clean a church floor, see a patient … start that activity by setting an intention to serve the people you care deeply about with love, mindfulness, devotion, or whatever you want to bring to that activity. It helps to set the intention, because the activity becomes filled with purpose, instead of something not very meaningful.

  4. Have regular reviews. I’ve found that it’s one thing to have an intention, but it’s another to actually live it. We forget, we get distracted, we fall into habitual patterns. To get us back on track, it really helps to have regular reviews. For example: have a 5-minute review at the end of the day — how did you do today? How can you get better? Maybe write 1-2 sentences in a journal. Or just reflect on it. Do the same each week: plan out your week on Sundays (for example), but also review your past week. How can you adjust for the upcoming week? And each month, and each year. Put these on your calendar and don’t skip it when the review date comes up!

  5. Have people hold your purpose in their hearts. Find at least 1-2 other people (and ideally more) who will hold your purpose in their hearts. That means: you tell them about it, they care about you and what you’re doing, and they’ll ask you about it, maybe support your mission in some way. They’ll challenge you if they feel you’re not doing everything you can or living your best life. They’ll share their mission with you. They’ll be on the journey with you, because no one fulfills their deepest purpose alone.

  6. Connect to your fulfillment. Reflect on the meaning you get from fulfilling your purpose. Don’t just go through the motions — feel it, deeply. Feel the love you’re offering (and receiving) as you push into this purpose. See the good you’re doing for others. Live your life as love.

It’s not something that happens overnight, and it’s not always simple to live a life of purpose. But putting these ideas into practice, you’ll feel a greater sense of meaning in your life.

-AG

Commit yourself to your own magnificence.

Commit yourself to your own magnificence. Every time you look into a mirror, remind yourself that what stares back at you is not an every-changing body, but an invisibleness that is truly your highest self. Affirm: I’am love, I’am love, I’am worthy, I’am infinite, silently and out loud. Do this frequently so that it eventually becomes your inner mantra. This will help you abandon old patterns you’ve carried that have injured your personal relationship to the universe and all of the inherent beauty and perfection it holds. You will awaken to the incredible miracle that you are.

-AG

New Year: The Beautiful Minimalism of a Blank Slate

We have a new year upon us, and while “January 1” is just an arbitrary date, for most of us, it feels like a new beginning.

And there’s something beautifully minimalist about this new beginning — it’s a blank slate, where we can do anything, imagine possibilities, become a new person.

In fact, this is available to us in any moment: each new second is a fresh beginning, a new opportunity, a chance to start over, a blank canvas to be filled with whatever art we are moved to create.

Let’s imagine this new year as a blank slate. It’s like an empty house: what would we like to put in it?

This is a kind of minimalism. We can start afresh, tossing out everything and only placing in this empty house what we find most important, and nothing more.

What would you like to do with the minimalist blank slate of this new year?

Ask yourself:

  • Do you want to fill it with distractions, or keep only the most important work, relationships, commitments?

  • Do you want to be constantly checking social media, or would you like to read long-form writing and books, perhaps create something new?

  • Do you want to be more mindful? More compassionate? More whole-hearted in your relationships?

  • Do you want to be more active, eat more healthy, nourishing food? Get outdoors more, find more solitude?

  • Do you want to have greater focus for your meaningful work? Be more organized?

  • Simplify your life? Get your finances in order?

Pick just a handful. Spread them out over the year. Don’t overfill the year with a list of 20 things you want to do — savor the space of your blank slate.

It’s a beautiful time to reimagine your life, and keep enjoying this journey.

-AG

Ego Dropping: The Magic of Breaking Free from Self-Concern

There’s a mindfulness technique I’ve been practicing for a number of years now, and when I can do it, it’s like magic.

The practice is dropping the ego — dropping my self-concern, my sense of being separate from everything else, and returning to wholeness with everything.

While that can sound a bit new age-y, what I’ve learned is that almost all of our problems are caused by our self-concern.

Consider these common problems:

  • Angry at someone else: We’re mad because they were inconsiderate to us, insulted or offended us, made us feel bad about ourselves. But that’s because we’re caught up in self-concern. We are thinking about ourselves and how they’ve hurt us. Dropping self-concern, we can see that this other person is hurt in some way, and reacting badly because of it (which we all do sometimes).

  • Worried about failing: We might not try to do a big project, start a business, write a book, found a non-profit organization, create art … because we’re worried we’ll be a failure. This is obviously self-concern. Without this focus on ourselves, we might focus on the people we’re serving, or focus on just getting started without worrying too much about the perfect outcome.

  • Procrastination: We all procrastinate in some way, and this is always caused by self-concern. We don’t want to face the discomfort of a difficult task, which is worrying about our comfort (self-concern). Dropping that self-concern, we can just get started without worrying about our comfort, without worrying about failing, without worrying that the task is too hard. Just get started, serving others through doing.

  • Anxious about a social situation: Going to an event, we worry about what other people will think of us, which is again, our focus on ourselves. Dropping that self-concern, we can think about how going to this even might serve others, we can go there with curiosity about other people, we can go and grow as we practice mindfulness at the event.

  • Eating too much junk: Like all comforts (games, porn, videos, shopping, etc.), food is a way to comfort ourselves, to give ourselves pleasure. Dropping self-concern, we can see that eating more junk food will lead to worse health, which is not only hurting us but those who we serve in the world. Instead, we can put delicious healthy foods into our bodies to nourish ourselves.

  • Not exercising enough: Again, this is usually a focus on our own comfort. It’s uncomfortable to exercise, it’s more comfortable to sit and look at a computer some more. Dropping self-concern, we can see that exercise is necessary to do the work we want to do, to live a healthy and happy life, to be a vibrant member of our community. And it can also be wonderful, if we let go of a need for constant comfort.

  • Too distracted: We’re constantly checking our phones, social media, messages, email, news sites, and much more. What’s going on here? We’re caught up in self-concern — what others think of us, our comfort and pleasure, fears of missing out on things, etc. All of it is self-concern. Dropping self-concern, we can let go of checking anything for a little while, and stay with the discomfort of focusing on one thing so we can get our meaningful work done, or have a meaningful connection with another person or with nature.

  • Addictions: Like comfort food, addictions are about the self-concern we have for our comfort. For example, alcohol addiction is often a way to comfort ourselves when we’re stressed, feeling bad about ourselves, feeling angry or depressed. These are all forms of self-concern. Dropping self-concern, we can go through the discomfort of not indulging in our addictions because we know that they’re damaging not only to ourselves but to everyone we love, and to the work we want to do in the world.

There are many other kinds of problems, of course, but you can see that self-concern lies at the root of almost all of them. Dropping self-concern means that we can serve others, push into discomfort for the benefit of those around us, and serve a bigger mission with meaningful work.

So how can we drop this self-concern, which could also be called “ego”?

The answer lies in mindfulness practices. I’m going to teach you one here, and encourage you to practice it.

The result is nothing short of magical. All of these problems become easier, and life changes.

The Mindfulness Practice of Ego Dropping

This practice can be done anywhere, no matter what you’re doing, but it’s best started sitting still, in a quiet place.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sit still and notice how your body feels. Find a comfortable, stable seated position, and just notice how your body feels. Scan your body and notice as many sensations as you can. Then just hold all of your bodily sensations in your awareness at once, or as many as you can.

  2. When your mind wanders, bring it back to the present. Your mind might get caught up in thoughts — that’s OK. Just notice that, and come back to the sensations of the present moment, whichever step you’re on.

  3. Open your awareness to sensations all around you. Next, keep your open awareness, but widen it to include sound sensations from all around you, then touch sensations from outside your body (the air on your skin, clothes on your body, ground beneath your feet), then open your eyes (if they were closed) and notice all sight sensation from all around you — light, colors, textures, shapes. Don’t focus on any one thing, just allow your awareness to open to all of these sensations around you.

  4. Keep a relaxed open awareness to just one field of sensation. Keeping this relaxed, gentle open awareness … just allow the sensations outside of your body and inside your body to become one field of sensation. There’s no outside or inside, it’s just all sensation, one big ocean of sensation.

  5. Drop your sense of separation. Let go of any sense that you are separate from everything around you — it’s just one field of sensation. Relax any boundaries and feel at one with everything, returning to wholeness with the universe. It’s just one big open experience, constantly changing as each moment changes.

  6. Notice that there’s no self — just sensation. There’s no “self” as we normally know it — which means we can’t have self-concern. We have dropped the ego, which is something our minds construct, a “self” that’s separate from everything around us and which we need to protect from the world. It just drops away as we practice this relaxed, open awareness, one field of sensation, one ocean of experience. We are whole with the world around us, just as we were in the womb.

  7. From this open awareness, open your heart. Keeping this sense of wide open awareness, dropping separateness, staying in this field of experience … notice your heart in the middle of it. It’s open, tender, loving. It loves everything in its awareness. In fact, your awareness islove, and it is all-encompassing. You send out a universal love equally to everything in your awareness, because none of it is separate from you. No one is separate from you — we’re all interconnected.

This takes practice, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it at first. Sit and practice daily. Try it when you’re on the bus or driving, washing the dishes or in a meeting. You can practice anywhere, doing anything.

What happens once you drop the ego and drop into a wide open, gentle, loving awareness? Magic. You don’t have to run to comfort and away from discomfort, you don’t have to protect your self-image from others, you don’t have to defend yourself or worry about failure or being judged. All of that self-concern drops away, and you are left with two things: peace, and an open heart.

-AG

Training in Uncertainty

“We are always in transition. If you can just relax with that, you’ll have no problem.” 

-Chogyam Trungpa

I’ve been training in uncertainty for a few years now.

I realized that the people I coach and teach are just like me: we feel shaky, scared, anxious, uncomfortable when we are faced with massive uncertainty, when the ground is pulled out from under our feet.

This shakiness is the cause of our procrastination, hiding from overwhelming projects, running from discomfort, and putting off exercise, healthy eating, meditation, writing, reading and all the other things we want in our lives.

And so, if we can train in uncertainty, we can get good at life. We no longer need to fear groundlessness.

What does it mean to train in uncertainty?

It means to constantly yank the rug out from under your feet.

When you get comfortable with something, you have to give it up. When you think you know something, you have to toss it out. When you walk through life with concepts, you have to let those concepts go and see things with fresh eyes.

Most of us walk around thinking we know things — think about how often we think we know how everyone else should act. Training in uncertainty is letting go of the certainty that we know how everyone else should behave, and having no concepts.

Most of us walk around thinking we know what things around us are. We barely glance at the things we pass. Training in uncertainty is tossing all that out, and seeing things for the first time, full of curiosity.

Training in uncertainty is pushing into discomfort when you want to run to comfort. It’s going to an event that scares the crap out of you. It’s setting aside time to write every day even when you want to run like crazy from the writing.

And then when you think you know something about training in uncertainty … you throw that out too. You keep throwing everything away, and know nothing.

What you’re left with is just impermanence — constant flux. Groundlessness. A deeply interconnected world, without separation.

THE BEAUTY OF UNCERTAINTY / LEARN HOW TO USE UNCERTAINTY TO FIND LASTING LOVE

We’ve figured out how to control most things in our lives — our bodies, our weight, our work. But relationships? That’s something different altogether. We can’t control someone else’s heart, and because of that, there’s always a certain amount of uncertainty in any relationship.

And, sadly, it is this uncertainty that causes many of us to put up walls and push others away. Rather than face living with uncertainty in relationships, many people shut down completely. Because at its core, our need for certainty is a survival mechanism, and in uncertain states, we do what is necessary to protect ourselves — or our hearts in this case. But the beauty of the uncertainty in relationships is that it is in this space that our ultimate spiritual growth evolves, and where we can find more joy and more happiness than anywhere.

So just how do we overcome the innate urge to self-protect during periods of uncertainty? How do we learn how to surrender control to trust and faith? What’s the best way for dealing with uncertainty in relationships?

Through understanding, practicing and mastering the skills that are critical to your success in finding, nurturing and creating an outstanding relationship. There is a lot to learn and appreciate about the needs, feelings and behaviors of yourself as well as your partner — and, most importantly, how to use these understandings to best support your partner and your relationship.

SHARE YOUR FEARS

How do you protect yourself from feeling pain? Do you give your partner the cold shoulder? Do you hold back love?

Becoming aware of your behavioral patterns makes it easier to recognize them when they arise, and helps you achieve more objective viewpoint when emotions take hold. Recognizing your triggers and patterns is just the first step — next, you must share this information with your partner.

Open up to your partner about what you need in order to release your inner withholding and connect. Let your partner play a supportive role in helping you work through your fears and finding a new approach to any destructive patterns. You may be surprised just how much more trust this can create. Communicating openly, and not just talking but really communicating with your partner, can erode much of the uncertainty in relationships.

GIVE WITHOUT GETTING

Learn to give without the promise of getting. As Tony Robbins says, “The secret to living is giving.” Learn to receive your greatest joy from seeing your partner fulfilled. Find out what drives your partner, what they are hungry for, what their goals are. Find out what their pains are. Don’t be in a relationship just asking what you can get from your partner. Open up and give this person your love and honesty.

For example, try looking your partner in the eyes and asking them to explain what makes them feel loved. Honor and accept their answer as the truth and not try to change their needs to match yours.

CHOOSE TRUST

Learn to choose trust and faith in your relationship, even when it doesn’t seem possible – stay, even when everything in you wants to run. No matter what, believe that your partner has only positive intent.

For example, when you feel yourself reacting to your partner as if they are doing something “to you,” observe your reaction and trust their intention. Rather than reacting, open up and see what they need at that moment to feel loved.

LIVE CONSCIOUSLY

Lastly, treat your partner as you yourself would like to be treated. Be the example of what you want in a partner. Step back and feel what your partner is feeling and be present for his or her pain. At the same time, recognize their unique needs.

For example, instead of demanding from your partner, decide to go first in giving what he or she needs. Discover what you need to do for them to feel vulnerable and loved in your relationship. And when your partner is in distress, commit to listening with absolute compassion, with the sole goal of helping alleviate their suffering.

Remember, the only thing we can control is ourselves: our actions, our reactions, the choices that we make in our relationships every day. Embrace the power you do have to shape the dynamic of your relationship, and you will get one step closer to creating true peace in your relationship

-AG

How to Become Whole in a Relationship

OK… So I know I don’t really write anything about “relationships” but this time it’s different. When I write these blog posts I have to be inspired or have to be experiencing it in real life. 

The reason why I’am writing this post, is because of a really beautiful lady I’ve met last Summer from work. Let’s just call her “Ms. Bundle of Joy.” We were speaking last week at work and I realized that something was wrong. It sounded and looked like she was going through some things, so I asked what’s wrong. She replied that she was going through some hardships with her current relationship and that they have broken up a couple of days after we spoke about it. And this is what ignited the fire within me to write this blog post.

This girl has been one of the most sweetest human being I’ve met in life and from work. She doesn’t deserve the toxic feelings she has inside of her at the moment, she deserves better than that. She’s also one of the most prettiest girl I’ve every met with an amazing smile and a star gazing dreamy eyes.

I dedicate this post to “Ms. Bundle of Joy.”

I HOPE YOU TAKE THIS IN, AND KEEP ENJOYING THIS BEAUTIFUL JOURNEY THAT WE CALL “LIFE.”

Alright! Let’s take an example of a woman I know who spends a lot of her day wondering what her boyfriend is doing, looking for clues that he loves her, wondering why he isn’t paying attention to her, worrying that he’s flirting with other girls on social media.

(Note that this applies to both men & women; I’ve just chosen a woman in this example.)

She’s not happy in this relationship — she’s dependent on him for her happiness, and unhappy when he’s not providing the validation she needs, when he doesn’t show how much he loves her. She’s insecure, jealous, needy. This doesn’t make for a good relationship, or a happy person.

What a Whole Person Looks Like

Before we can talk about relationships, we have to focus on one person, because when you have two people the equation gets a little more complicated. Let’s take the simplest part of the equation first — just you.

When you’re whole, you don’t need someone else’s validation to be happy — because you accept yourself. You don’t need someone else to love you in order to feel loved — because you love yourself. That’s not to say you don’t love to be loved by others, or want others in your life — but you already provide the foundation of what you need, all by yourself, by accepting and loving yourself.

When you’re whole, you are not insecure, because you aren’t worried so much about the other person leaving. Sure, it would be a great loss for your loved one to abandon you, but you’d be fine on your own. You wouldn’t be “alone” because you have the best company in the world — yourself. You know you’d survive, be happy, do great things, even without that person. That’s not to say you don’t want your lover to stay — but you aren’t always afraid of the possibility of that person leaving.

When you’re whole, you don’t need the other person to check in with you all the time, because you’re happy on your own. You’re OK if they go do their own thing, because you’re secure in your relationship and you’re perfectly fine doing your own thing too. You don’t need reassurance of that person’s love, because you’re secure.

See, in my opinion I believe that love is not an emotion, it’s a choice.

Two Whole People Coming Together

A solid relationship is two whole (or at least, fairly whole) people coming together because they love each other’s company. They’re not coming together because they need someone to love them all the time, because they need someone’s company all the time, because they need to be shown that they’re loved.

If one person is whole but the other person is needy, dependent, insecure … the whole person will do the best that he or she can to help the other, but over the long run will feel weary of all the neediness and insecurity, and will feel resentment. If both are needy and insecure, there will be constant fights about why you didn’t check in with me, why you’re so distant today, why you’re talking to that guy, what you’re doing when you go out with your friends, etc.

But if both people are whole, they can be apart and are secure enough not to worry about the other person, and are happy being alone. They can come together and be happy, enjoying each other’s company. They don’t need each other, but love each other and care for the other person’s happiness — not worrying so much about their own happiness, because they are secure that they’re already happy.

The respect each other, and themselves. They are compassionate for each other, and themselves.

This is a relationship with two whole people.

Becoming Whole

So what if you’re not this “whole” person, and want to be? Realize you already have everything you need to be whole — you just need to let go of the insecurities, and realize how awesome you already are. You don’t need improvement — you need to realize that the awesomeness is already there.

How do you let go of the insecurities? That’s not so easy, because it’s a slow healing process, but it starts by recognizing them when they appear, and then letting them go. Notice that you’re worried about what your significant other is doing, and then recognize that you’re worried they don’t love you as much as they should, and that means you are worried you’re not good enough … then let go of that worry. You don’t need it. You are good enough.

If you’re good enough, that means the other person will either recognize that and love you, or won’t recognize it (and therefore won’t be deserving of you) and will not love you, but you’ll be fine because you’re OK on your own. If you’re good enough, you’ll be good enough with or without this person. That’s not to say you want the person to leave, or don’t care about the person, but you know that you’d be OK if they did leave you.

Knowing that, you’re OK no matter what: whether that person is on a trip, out with friends, working late, even angry with you. You’re good, as you are, on your own, and you don’t need anything else.

When worries about whether you’re good enough crop up, recognize them, let them go. When worries about whether the other person loves you crop up, recognize them, let them go. When fears of the other person flirting with someone else crop up, recognize them, let them go (worst case scenario: the person cheats, you leave them, you’re OK on your own).

Recognize the fears and worries, and let them go. Relax into this new space of being OK with yourself, being happy on your own, knowing things will always be OK.

Once you’ve learned this wholeness, you can come together with someone else with confidence, love, compassion, security.

-AG

A More Deliberate Way of Living

Our lives are often spent in a rush, almost on autopilot, drifting from one wave of busyness and distraction to another, adrift in a sea of crisis and urges.

There’s noise and quick tasks, lots of tabs, messages and requests, demands on our attention, multitasking, mind scattered everywhere.

The nature of the world is chaos, but what if we could find a more deliberate way of moving through the chaos?

I’m going to share some ways I’ve been trying to move more deliberately — none of them new to me or you, but more of a coming back to what I know to be helpful. We’re always coming back.

  1. Set intentions at the start. When you start your day, or any meaningful activity, check in with yourself and ask what your intentions are for the day or that activity. Do you want to be more present? Do you want to move your mission forward? Do you want to be compassionate with your loved ones? Do you want to practice with discomfort and not run to comfort? Set an intention (or three) and try to hold that intention as you move through the day or that meaningful activity.

  2. Pick your important tasks & make them your focus. What tasks are meaningful to you today? Pick just three (or even just one) and focus on that first. Put aside everything else (you can come back to all that later) and create space for what’s meaningful in your life.

  3. One activity at a time. If you’re going to write, close all other tabs and just write. If you’re going to brush your teeth, just do that. If the activity is important enough to include in the limited container of your life, it’s important enough to give it your full focus.  Treat it as if it might be your last act on earth.

  4. Use any activity as a meditation. This is really the same as the item above, but every single act is an opportunity to be fully with the activity. Everything we do can be a practice in breath, in presence, in deep consciousness. Treat each act as sacred, and practice.

  5. Create more space. Instead of filling every minute of the day with space, what would it be like to have some time of rest, solitude, quietude and reflection? My tendency (like many people, I suspect) is to finish one task and then immediately launch into the next. When there’s nothing to do, I’ll reach for my phone or computer and find something to read, to learn about, to respond to — something useful. But space is also useful. What would it look like to include space in our lives? Giving each activity an importance, and when it’s done, giving some weight to the space between activities. Taking a pause, and taking a breath. Reflecting on how the activity went, how I held my intention, how I want to spend the next hour of my life. Moving deliberately in that space, not rushing through it.

  6. Be in silence more. Our days are filled with noise — talking, messaging, taking in the cacophony of the online world. What if we deliberately created a space or two each day for being in silence? That could look like a couple of meditation sessions, a walk out in nature, a bath where we don’t read but just experience the bath, a time for tea and nothing else but the tea, or just stopping to watch a sunset (without taking photos). Silence is healing to the soul.

  7. Simplify by limiting or banning. We don’t have to say yes to every French fry or cookie, or every Youtube video or beer. We can choose what we want in our lives deliberately, and what we don’t want (or want less of) … then set limits or ban that activity. For example, can you limit sugar to one treat every week? Or go a month without alcohol? Or only watch Youtube videos between 6-7 pm? These kinds of limits help us to simplify and be more deliberate.

  8. Listen to what life is calling you to do. As we sit in silence, as we move deliberately into spaces we’ve created, as we check in with our intentions … we can listen. Listen to life, God, the universe, whatever you want to listen to … and see what its calling you to do. Maybe it’s just your own heart. But you’re being called, and if you listen, you will hear it.

When you add these together — and you don’t have to be perfect at any of them — they flow into a beautiful way to move through life.

-AG