Wealthy Minds

KEEP MOVING FORWARD

LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA

LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA

KEEP MOVING FORWARD.

Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy and happiness... To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices - today I choose to feel alive, not to deny my humanity but embrace it. When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

Focus on you for a change. Stop worrying about other people understanding you. Get in touch with yourself instead. Focus on what makes you feel at peace. 

Life becomes so much more fulfilling when you are just simply yourself. The world keeps spinning whether people understand you or not, so why not make this next trip around the sun about you?

-AG

Autopilot Achievement: How to Turn Your Goals Into Habits

“First we make our habits, then our habits make us.” – Charles C. Noble

It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something we don’t always do. It’s not exceedingly difficult to do, and yet I think it’s something that would make a world of difference in anyone’s life.

Break your goals into habits, and focus on putting those habits into autopilot.Turning a goal into a habit means really focusing on it, intensely, for at least a month, to the exclusion of all else. The more you can focus on it, the more it’ll be on autopilot.

But once you put it on autopilot, once a habit is firmly established, you don’t really have to focus on it much. You’ll still do it, but because it’s a habit, you only have to use minimal focus to maintain that habit. The goal becomes on autopilot, and you can focus on your next goal or project or habit.

But in order to achieve that goal, I broke it down into two habits:

  1. I had to make running a daily habit (while following a training plan I found online).

  2. I had to report to people in order to have accountability — I did this through family, friends and coworkers, through a blog, and through a column in my local newspaper every two weeks. With this accountability, there’s no way I would stop running.

I focused on this exclusively for about a month, and didn’t have any other goals, projects or habits that were my main focuses. I did other work projects, but they kinda took a backburner to running.

The accountability habit took a couple months, mainly because I didn’t focus on it too much while I was building the writing habit. Once those two habits were firmly entrenched, my writing goal was pretty much on autopilot.

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Ryun

Other Applications

This works for many other types of goals, of course. For example:

  • Debt reduction: I turned this goal into a few different habits, including creating a monthly spending plan, learning to stick to the spending plan, and making automatic debt and savings payments. Once these habits were on autopilot, debt elimination was a sure bet.

  • Writing a blog: This was simply setting a time to write, and making myself write during that time, no matter what. Once you have that habit, the blog will come.

  • Getting organized: This is three main habits — designating a spot for everything I own, putting things in their designated spots immediately, and doing a daily processing of your inbox(es).

As you can see, just about any goal can be turned into habits if you think it through. Let’s look more into how to do that.

How to Turn A Goal Into Habits

It’s a pretty simple process, but let’s go over it step-by-step:

  1. You goal should be written out very clearly. The better you can visualize your goal, the easier this will be.

  2. Think about the steps needed to get to your goal. There may be many.

  3. Can the goal be accomplished with a series (2-4) of daily or weekly actions? For example, to save money, you will need to make a savings deposit every payday, before you pay your bills. Through that regular action, the goal will eventually be accomplished. Figure this out, and that’s your habit or series of habits.

  4. Figure out the amount of the habit will need to be done to get you to your goal by your timeline. By “amount”, I mean that you have to figure out quantity times frequency to get your desired result. For example, I can run every single day but not be prepared to run a marathon if I don’t do enough miles or long runs. So if I’m going to run every day, I have to also know how far (and any other things such as different workouts on different days). If I’m going to have a savings deposit every week, I need to know how much is necessary for each deposit in order to reach my goal. Figure out this “amount” for your habit and make a schedule.

  5. Focus on the first habit for at least one month, to the exclusion of all else. Don’t worry about the other two habits (for example) while you’re trying to form the first habit.

  6. If more than one habit is necessary, start on the second habit after a month or so, then on the third, and so on, focusing on one habit at a time until each is firmly ingrained.

  7. After all the necessary habits are ingrained, your goal is on autopilot. You will still need to focus on them somewhat, but to a lesser extent. If any of the habit gets derailed, you’ll have to focus on that habit again for one month.

  8. After you’re on autopilot, you can focus on a new goal and set of habits.

“Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables.” – Spanish proverb

-AG

A NOTE TO MYSELF/YOURSELF

LOCATION: Wisdom Tree - Los Angeles, CA

Dear Me,

Don’t you ever give up on yourself. This life is going to challenge you and knock you down, but you can never give up. When you feel like you’ve given it your all, and there’s nothing left, remember your power. You are the creator of your own reality, emotions, and destiny. Your current situation is not your final destination.

I ask these questions to myself and ask these to yourself:

  • “What if today’s my last day?”

  • “What if today’s my last week?”

  • “What am I going to contribute to this planet today? Evil things? Good things?”

Just by asking these questions to yourself it will change your whole perspective of your whole day.

Remember who you are. Keep dreaming BIG, keep fighting, keep growing, keep learning, and never give up! 

-AG

Deep Focus: Training to Open in the Middle of Shakiness

When we set out to work on a meaningful, important task, something interesting happens.

We feel quite a bit shaky.

It’s the feeling you get when you step into uncertain ground, where you don’t know exactly what you’re doing or whether you can do it, where you feel a bit lost or don’t have solid ground under your feet. This is the shakiness of groundlessness.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling shaky and groundless, but our minds don’t really like it. In fact, we’ve trained our minds to run from this uncertainty and shakiness, to go to distraction, procrastination, busywork, trying to get control, or going to a host of other habitual patterns.

We feel the shakiness and immediately do whatever we can to avoid feeling it.

What if we could just feel the shakiness and not need to run? What if we could practice mindfulness in the middle of it, and stay in the groundlessness? We might even learn to be completely happy in the shakiness, to see it as the place we want to be if we want to do anything meaningful, if we want to have an impact on the world and make a difference in the lives of others.

We can do this by training ourselves in Deep Focus.

The Shift into Deep Focus

Deep Focus is simply staying focused on one task for longer than we normally might, staying in the middle of the task despite urges to switch to something else, despite our habitual patterns. It’s immersing yourself into the task, creating undistracted space where you can stay in the shakiness and give it your entire being.

How often do we actually give ourselves entirely to a task? What would it be like to shift into this mode more often?

To do it, you have to clear everything away and set an intention to dive deep into the task. You have to pick an important task that is meaningful to you, that is worth this kind of diving in.

You’ll also want to create some kind of structure to hold you in this focus when things get shaky and you want to run. The structure might be some kind of accountability, some kind of structured session that is timed, has no other options, and no wifi … you can find the structure that works for you over time if you experiment.

The result is a very different way of relating to a task. Instead of it being something you need to rush through to get to the next task, it becomes worthy of your full attention, a destination worthy of staying in, an activity worthy of your full devotion.

Instead of it being a place of shakiness you need to run from, it becomes a place of breathtaking groundlessness, where you can savor the quality of uncertainty while also appreciating this place where you can be of service to others.
-AG

Simplify Your Day to Have a Greater Impact

Our society is obsessed with productivity and optimizing our lives — having the perfect routine, perfect diet, perfect productivity system, perfect todo app, and more.

It’s an ideal that not only doesn’t exist, it’s harmful to our health and happiness. And what’s more, it’s completely misguided — what many of us really want to do with our work is do meaningful work and have an impact on the world.

So how can we let go of the focus on productivity and optimizing, while still doing meaningful work and having an impact?

Simplify. Focus on the important, meaningful tasks instead of churning. And actually dive into those meaningful tasks instead of procrastinating because of the uncertainty that comes with them.

Look at your task list and email/messages inbox and pick the most meaningful tasks — there’s a good chance you’ve been putting them off. Instead, when you don’t go to your favorite distractions, you are likely to churn through smaller tasks, answering messages, checking on inboxes and updates.

This is because meaningful, important tasks come with great uncertainty. We habitually respond to this uncertainty by avoiding it, going to distraction and easier tasks that make us feel less uncertain.

But the result is that we’re churning through a lot of busywork, spending our days doing a lot but not getting a lot accomplished.

Instead, we can simplify:

  1. Pick meaningful tasks, and focus on those.

  2. Create space by clearing away distractions.

  3. Letting the busywork get pushed until later in the day, when we set aside room for those.

  4. And putting our entire being into the meaningful, important tasks.

Imagine clearing out space in your day by simplifying, letting go of the small tasks, not constantly answering messages and emails, and instead giving yourself the generous gift of focusing.

You’d get the meaningful tasks done, and feel like your work is more meaningful. Those tasks would make a greater impact, and over time, you’d have a great impact on the world.

All because you simplified and focused.

-AG

The Wisdom of Allowing Things to Happen

The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.
~The Daodejing

This has been what I’ve been learning over the past couple of years. Allowing things to happen.

It goes counter to our usual instincts in Western society — we are doers, creators of our destiny, we make things happen … we don’t wait for it to happen! That’s what I was taught from an early age, in school and by every motivational sports movie I ever watched. So allowing things to happen is not my normal way.

I have never been one to be passive, to let things happen instead of making them happen, to let go of control of things.

But here’s what I’ve been learning:

  1. This control we think we have over our lives and our destinies … it’s an illusion. As the guy who had his life turned upside down by a heart attack, the woman who lost her father to death and had to drop everything, the family who lost their home to a hurricane, the entrepreneur that was doing well until the economy collapsed and no one was spending, the hard-working employee who was laid off when the economy tanked, the cyclist who was hit by a car, the car that skid because someone ran onto the road who had been obscured, the mom whose son has autism despite her doing everything right during pregnancy … it happens every day, where we think we’re in control but we’re really not. Do we control all the people around us who affect our lives so intimately? Do we control the overwhelming power of nature? There’s so much out of our control that what we think is control is really an illusion.

  2. To control your cow, give it a bigger pasture. This is a great quote from Zen Master Suzuki Roshi, talking about controlling your mind. I see the cow and her pasture as a form of allowing things to happen — instead of tightly controlling something, you’re opening up, giving it more room, a bigger pasture. The cow will be happier, will roam around, will do as she pleases, and yet your needs will also be met. The same is true of anything else — stepping back and allowing things to happen means things will take care of themselves, and your needs will also be met. And you’ve done no work.

  3. You have less stress, less to worry about. Imagine allowing things to happen naturally, and things work out, and all you did was smile and watch. You don’t have to worry about shaping things, about controlling something that doesn’t want to be controlled. You don’t have to push, and fix leaks, and put out fires. You just let things work on their own. They happen.

  4. Things will surprise you. Let’s say you’re allowing something to happen. You might want it to go a certain way, to a certain outcome. That’s your goal. But what if you let go of this idea? What if you say, “I don’t know what will happen.” (Btw, you really don’t.) What if you say, “Let’s see what happens.” Then things will happen, but not the way you planned. The outcome might be completely different than what you’d hoped for. But it can still be great, just different. It might even be wonderful, and surprising. Surprises are good, if we accept that things always change and that change is good.

  5. You learn how things work. Instead of trying to make things work the way you want them to work, just watch them work. You’ll learn much more about human nature, about the nature of the world, as you see things work without you controlling it. It might change you.

That’s all very good, Leo, you’re thinking. But that won’t put the food on my table.

Maybe you’re right. And so, don’t let me stop you from what you need to do. Carry on.

-AG

Becoming More Deeply Committed to My Commitments

How often have you half-assedly committed to something, but didn’t really put your entire being into following through on that commitment?

How often have you said you were going to do something, and then just dropped it because you were too busy or didn’t have the energy?

How often have you said you were going to change your habits … and then didn’t stick to it?

How many times have you said you were going to take a course, read a book, take on a challenge, start a new hobby, write a book, start a business … and then you barely even start on it (if you start at all)?

For myself, this all happens at an alarming rate. My commitments are often not even half commitments, they’re like quarter commitments. And interestingly, I’d say I’m better at it than most people! Maybe not the best in the world, but better at sticking to my commitments than 75% of the world.

And I suck at it, in many ways. I start a diet and barely last a couple days on it. I pick an exercise program and last 3 weeks. I buy a book and barely get a quarter of the way through. Over and over, my commitments fall like flies.

What if we could deepen our commitments?

What would it be like to be so deeply committed, we’d be unshakable? What would it be like to be the person who would walk through walls to meet their purpose in life? How much more would people trust us if we showed up fully every single time we commit to something?

Our lives could be transformed.

I’ve been meditating on commitment lately, and experimenting with it in my life. Looking at where I’m only half committed (or less), where I don’t really believe I’ll meet my commitments. And learning how to go deeper into that commitment. Or cut it out, if I can’t commit deeply.

Here’s what I’m learning about being more deeply committed:

  1. Take away choice. When we’re only half committed, we keep the door open for other options. We think, “Sure, I’m going to stick to this diet, but … if I go out for dinner with friends, that’s different. Also family gatherings. And of course if there are donuts in the office.” That’s bullcrap. If we’re going to commit, let’s remove all possibility in our minds of doing anything else. There’s just this one option: doing your commitment.

  2. Do it with your entire being. Going through the motions doesn’t count. If you’re going to do it, do it with your entire being. Show up fully. Put your whole heart into it. Or don’t do it at all. Only half showing up for other people is painful to them. The same with only half showing up for yourself.

  3. Remember your deeper Why. You’re probably not taking your commitments seriously because you’ve forgotten why it’s so important. It’s just another thing on your endless todo list. Instead, remember the deeper reason you committed to this — maybe it’s to serve people you care deeply about. Keep them in your heart, and make this commitment the most important thing in the world, at least at the moment you’re doing it. Write out why you care so much about this commitment, and put that somewhere you can’t miss it.

  4. If you aren’t fully doing it, ask what’s holding you back. Notice if you’re not really upholding your commitment, or if you’re only going through the motions. What’s stopping you from fully showing up? What’s getting in the way? There might be fear, or maybe you aren’t giving it enough weight and giving it the focus it deserves. Pause and be with this resistance or floppiness, and ask yourself what it would take to deepen this commitment.

  5. Add commitments only slowly. Let’s face it: we want to do everything. And yet, this is why we can’t uphold our commitments — we’re overcommitting! Most of us should reduce our commitments (see next item), but once we get to a place where we feel we can add a new commitment … we should be very deliberate about the process of adding a new commitment. Meditate on it for a few days. Commit to it only for a week or two, so that you can see if you have room in your life. Once you feel good about it, add that commitment … but then don’t add others for a little while, until you’re sure you can add another.

  6. Get out of commitments you aren’t going to uphold. Most of us are overcommitted — which means we can’t possibly meet all of our commitments. In this case, we should first see if there’s a way we can meet some of those commitments for as long as we said we would (work on a project for a month, for example), but then get out of them once we’ve fulfilled that commitment. That should be our first choice — do what we said we would, but then end it when we can. Next choice is to renegotiate the commitment if necessary — maybe we said we could do it for a year, but we can only do it for the next few months. Maybe we said we could do it every day, but all we’re able to do is three days a week. Let the person know, and apologize to them. Lastly, get out of the commitment if you can’t do either of the above. Again, apologize, but recognize that this is necessary if you’re going to fully meet your more important commitments. So this is a matter of prioritizing which ones you need to meet. But if you have to get out of a commitment, let that be a grave lesson in overcommitting yourself.

I write these not so much as advice for everyone else, but as advice for myself. This is what I’m learning, and it’s so important.

-AG

The Habit of Calm When You’re Feeling Frustrated

LOCATION: Mickey’s Toontown - Disneyland, CA

Someone recently asked me about getting frustrated when they feel overloaded, and then shutting down or lashing out.

“This has been something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. I had an instance today where I could have been more calm and rational about the situation but calm and rationality gave way to frustration and anger. I’m wondering what habits I can use instead to keep from falling into fits of anger.”

This probably sounds familiar to some of us. We feel overloaded, and then maybe lash out at someone in frustration and anger.

This comes from the hope that things will be calm, orderly, simple, solid, and under control. The world doesn’t comply with this hope, however, as it is chaotic, disorder, constantly changing, never fixed, groundless. So we get frustrated, angry at others, and feel anxiety.

So how do we deal with the frustration that arises? How can we create a habit of calm?

I’m going to share a series of practices that you can turn into habits. When you notice yourself feeling frustrated, instead of lashing out, practice the following.

If you practice them over and over, whenever you notice frustration, you will start to shift.

The first practice is to catch your habitual pattern as early as you can, and shifting by not allowing yourself to indulge in it. When you notice yourself getting frustrated and feeling overloaded, notice the urge to go to your habitual pattern (shutting down or lashing out), but pause instead of indulging it.

The next practice is to drop into the body. Again, pause, and let yourself take a breath. Drop your attention into your body and notice the sensations of frustration and overwhelm. Stay with these sensations, with curiosity. Notice how strong the urge to lash out feels, and just savor that strong feeling instead of acting on it.

Open up to it, relax around it, be with it. Love this feeling, if you can, or at least be compassionate with it. Once you practice this, you get more and more comfortable being in the middle of frustration, and you don’t need to relieve the feeling by lashing out. You now have more space to calm yourself and do the next practice.

The third practice is to use this newfound space to connect to the other person. Now, I understand that you might be angry at them, and so connecting to them is the last thing you want to do. Your heart is closed to them, because you think they are the problem. The problem is your closed heart. Try not indulging in that shutting down, and opening yourself a little. This is a challenging but transformative practice.

From this place, notice the other person — they are acting the way they’re acting because they are feeling some kind of pain themselves. Maybe they’re feeling insecure, anxious, worried about the future. Maybe they are hurt by something you did and are themselves lashing out in frustration. Well, you can understand that! You are feeling the same thing. In this way, the two of you are connected.

Maybe you’ve responded to their frustration with frustration of your own. Now you are suffering like they’re suffering. You are connected in this way, the same. Let this sameness open you up to them, understanding them in a more human way. They are not the problem, they are suffering like you are. You’re in this together. Now how can you work on this together?

The final practice is to try to find an appropriate, loving and compassionate response. You have empathized with the other person, but now you need to take action. The answer of what action to take is not always easy, but at the very least, you’re not responding from a place of anger, which is a place that gives rise to inappropriate responses like lashing out.

What is an appropriate, loving, compassionate response? It really depends on the situation. Some examples:

  • The other person is upset and going through a hard time, so you help them calm down, listen to their frustrations, offer empathy and compassion, and talk through a solution together.

  • The other person acted inconsiderately but perhaps was unaware of how that affected you, so you come to them when you’ve calmed down and talk to them compassionately about it, sharing the impact of their actions on you and asking calmly for a specific thing they can do in the future instead.

  • The other person is not willing to engage in a compassionate dialogue, and is set upon being a jerk. You can’t talk to them calmly, because they argue with everything. In this case, you might get a third party to mediate, like a couple’s counselor or a manager in your workplace.

  • The other person is abusive. You empathize with the pain they must feel in order to be like this. But you also remove yourself from the situation to protect yourself from harm. You try to help them get the help they need while being firm about your boundaries.

As you can see, there are many possibilities — many more than I can list here. These are just some examples to show that you can find a loving, appropriate response to the situation if you come from a place of compassion and calm.

In the end, this stuff takes a lot of practice. But it’s immeasurably more helpful to do these practices than to lash out, which hurts not only the other person, but yourself as well.

-AG

Don’t Tie Your Self-Worth on Others’ Actions

Allowing ourselves to get sucked into the emotions of others is one thing … but one of the more difficult problems is allowing the actions of other people to affect how we judge ourselves.

A good example: your boyfriend/girlfriend dumps you, so you wonder what’s wrong with yourself. Why doesn’t he/she love you? You opened yourself up to him/her, you shared your innermost self, you gave all your love to him/her … and he/she rejected you. This must mean he/she found you unworthy, right?

Actually, no: his/her actions have nothing to do with you, really.

Let me emphasize that because it’s really important: the actions of other people have very little to do with you.

If your boyfriend/girlfriend rejects you, or your boss gets mad at you, or your friend is a little distant today … that has very little to do with you (and your value as a person) and everything to do with what’s going on with them. They might be having a bad day, a bad week, are caught up in some story going on in their heads, are afraid of commitment or being rejected themselves, fear failing in the relationship, and so on and so on.

There are a million possible reasons someone might do something, and they are not a judgment on you. They are more a statement of what’s going on with the other person.

Let’s take a few examples:

  • Your friend isn’t as attentive as you’d like him to be. Does that mean he doesn’t care about you, or doesn’t want you to be happy? No. It’s possible he’s just tired, or too caught up in things that happened today to be attentive. Maybe he’s bothered by something you did, but that really is more about his issue of dealing with your actions than it is about you as a person. Maybe you can help him deal with that issue, or somehow ease his pain.

  • Your co-worker gets irritated with you and is rude. Does that mean you aren’t a good person? No, it means that person has a short temper and isn’t good at dealing with other people, or again, might be having a bad day. Instead of taking it personally, see how you can either give that person space to cool down, or help the person deal with their issues.

  • Someone doesn’t get as excited about your idea as you’d hoped. Does their rejection of your idea or proposal mean that you aren’t good? No. It’s possible your idea isn’t great, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t good or that you don’t have good ideas — maybe this is just not the right idea right now. But it’s also likely that it’s a good idea but that this person doesn’t appreciate it, or their interests don’t align with this idea right now, or maybe they have other priorities and can’t deal with this idea. Instead, thank them and move on to someone else who might be interested.

Those are just a few examples, but you can see how we often take other people’s actions personally even when they have very little to do with us. And we can often interpret their actions to be a judgment on us, and so feel bad about ourselves, when really it’s nothing to do with us.

So how do we deal with other people’s actions instead? Let’s take a look.

How to Deal with Others’ Actions

So someone rejects you, gets mad at you, is indifferent to you, is rude to you … what do you do?

There are many options, of course, but here’s what I suggest generally:

  1. Don’t take it personally. Their actions don’t have anything to do with you, so if you find yourself taking it as a personal affront to you, or a judgment of your worth, be aware of that, and let it go. Tell yourself that this has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them.

  2. Reaffirm your value. If you feel yourself doubting your value because of their actions, recognize that your value isn’t determined by their actions or judgments. It’s determined by you. So reaffirm that you believe you have great value — appreciate the things about yourself that are good and that have value. Even if no one else appreciates you, be the one person who can see those good things and is grateful for them. That’s all you need.

  3. Be compassionate. If that person is mad, rude, irritated, tired or afraid … they are in pain. They might be lashing out at you, or withdrawing from you, because of that pain. See if you can help relieve the pain. You’ve already checked in with yourself, and realized you are good to go. Now go help the other person. If they don’t want your help, that’s OK too. Your worth isn’t determined by whether someone wants or uses your help — it’s the fact that you tried to help that’s a statement of your value. You can’t control whether other people receive your help or are grateful for it … but you can at least make the attempt.

These three steps, by the way, don’t just help you with your self worth … they help your relationship with the other person. Often we react to others as if they personally injured us, and the other person doesn’t understand why … and so they in turn take our reaction personally, and get mad or hurt. If instead we don’t take their actions personally, and instead seek to help them, they are more likely to be grateful than mad or hurt. And so we’re better friends, co-workers, partners, parents if we take things less personally and are more compassionate.

This takes practice, of course, like all skills. It’s important to recognize what’s going on, so that you can then practice these skills whenever possible.

-AG

A Guide to Letting Go of Stress

We all deal with stress on a daily basis — whether it’s the stress of being busy and overwhelmed at work, having to deal with personal crisis, traffic, relationships, health, finances … stress can be a big part of our lives.

And stress has some strong effects: it makes us less happy, less effective, less open-hearted in our relationships, it tires us out, makes us less healthy, and can even create mental health issues if it rises to levels of anxiety.

So let’s look at how to let go of stress, whenever we notice it.

What You’re Struggling With

Why do we get stressed out, feel anxiety or feel overwhelmed?

Because we want the world to be calm, orderly, comfortable, and the world isn’t going along with those wishes. Things are out of control, not orderly, not simple, full of interruptions and unplanned events, health problems and accidents, and things never go as we planned or imagined.

But this is the way the world is — the stress comes not because the world is messy and chaotic, but because we desire it to be different than it is.

We have ideals for how other people should be, how we should be, how everything around us should be. These ideals aren’t a problem — the is that we are attached to these ideals. And this attachment causes us stress.

The good news is that we can let go of our attachment, and the world doesn’t need to change one iota. We can let go, and in doing so we let go of our stress.

How to Let Go of the Stress

Let’s say you’re experiencing a moment of stress right now.

Something isn’t going the way you’d like, things are chaotic or overwhelming, someone isn’t acting the way you’d like, you’re worried about something coming up.

The first practice is to drop into your body and notice how the stress feels, physically. Be present with the feeling — it’s not a problem to have stress in your body, it’s just a physical feeling. You can observe the physical sensation, just be with it. This can be your whole practice, and it only has to take a few moments.

The second practice is to notice the ideal, or your narrative about the situation. What’s causing this stress in your body? You have some ideal about how the world should be, how the other person should be, how you should be. And the world, the person, or you are not meeting that ideal. Notice that right now. Notice what you’re saying to yourself about it: “They shouldn’t act like that, I don’t like this, I’m such a screwup and not worthy of love.”

What do you say to yourself? Is this a familiar narrative? Notice that the ideal and the narrative are causing the effect of the stress, anxiety, fear, feeling of overwhelm. They aren’t serving you very well.

Also notice that they are completely fabricated by your mind. You created this ideal and the narrative. They are harming you, and you made up this dream. That’s nothing to beat yourself up about, but just to recognize. The good news: If you created it, you can let it go as well.

The third practice is to let go and just be. What would it be like to be in this moment without the ideal and the narrative? You’d be at peace. You’d be present in this moment. You’d be free. Perhaps more loving (to yourself or others).

Ask yourself what it would be like to not have the ideal and narrative. See if you can feel what it would be like, just for a moment. In that moment, you are free. You can relax, open your mind beyond your self-concern, and just be.

This is a state of openness that you can drop into in any moment. Just notice the sensations of this moment — the sensations of your body, of your surroundings. Notice the other people in your life, and their beautiful hearts. Notice how amazing it is to be alive right now, what a gift it is to have sight, hearing, taste, a body. What a privilege, what a joy!

You don’t have to be grateful and joyous in every moment, but this freedom of dropping ideal and narrative, and being at peace … it’s always available. Even in moments of chaos, you can be free, and even appreciate the beauty of the chaos.

-AG

Focus as an Antidote for Wanting to Do Everything

I have a problem, and I think most people do as well: I want to do everything.

OK, not actually every single thing, but I want to do more than I possibly can:

  • I want to do everything on my long to-do list, today

  • I want to take on every interesting project

  • I want to say yes to everyone else’s requests, even if I know I’m already too busy

  • I want to travel everywhere, and see everything that’s interesting

  • I want to try every delicious food, and I always want more of it (and I always eat too much)

  • I want to watch every interesting TV show and film

  • I want to read everything interesting online

  • I want to take on a lot of interesting hobbies — each of which would take me many hours to master

  • I want to spend time with everyone I love, with every friend — and also have a lot of time for solitude!

Obviously, this is all impossible. But I bet I’m not alone in constantly wanting all of this and more.

There’s a term for this in Buddhism that sounds judgmental but it’s not: “greed.” The term “greed” in this context just describes the very human tendency to want more of what we want.

It’s why we’re overloaded with too many things to do, overly busy and overwhelmed. It’s why we’re constantly distracted, why we overeat and shop too much and get addicted to things. It’s why we have too much stuff, and are in debt.

Greed is so common that we don’t even notice it. It’s the foundation of our consumerist society. It’s the ocean that we’re swimming, so much a part of the fabric of our lives that we can’t see that it’s there.

So what can we do about this tendency called greed? Is there an antidote?

There absolutely is.

The traditional antidote to greed in Buddhism is generosity. And while we will talk about the practice of generosity, the antidote I’d like to propose you try is focus.

Focus is a form of simplicity. It’s letting go of everything that you might possibly want, to give complete focus on one important thing.

Imagine that you want to get 20 things done today. You are eager to rush through them all and get through your to-do list! But instead of indulging in your greed tendency, you decide to simplify. You decide to focus.

The Practice of Complete Focus

This practice can be applied to all of the types of greed we mentioned above — wanting to do everything, read everything, say yes to everything, go everywhere, eat all the things.

Identify the urge: The first step in this practice is to recognize that your greed tendency is showing itself. Notice that you want to do everything, eat everything, and so forth. Once we’re aware of the tendency, we can work with it.

See the effects: Next, we need to recognize that indulging in the greed tendency only hurts us. It makes us feel stressed, overwhelmed, always unsatisfied. It makes us do and eat and watch and shop too much, to the detriment of our sleep, happiness, relationships, finances and more. Indulging might satisfy a temporary itch, but it’s not a habit that leads to happiness or fulfillment.

Practice refraining: Third, we can choose to refrain — choose not to indulge. The practice of refraining is about not indulging in the greed tendency, and instead pausing. Noticing the urge to indulge, and mindfully noticing how the urge feels in our body, as a physical sensation. Where is it located? What is it like? Be curious about it. Stay with it for a minute or two. Notice that you are actually completely fine, even if the urge is really strong. It’s just a sensation.

Focus with generosity: Then we can choose to be generous and present with one thing. Instead of trying to do everything, choose just one thing. Ideally, choose something that’s important and meaningful, that will have an impact on the lives of others, even if only in a small way. Let this be an act of generosity for others. Let go of everything else, just for a few minutes, and be completely with this one thing. Generously give it your full attention. This is your love.

Clear distractions: If necessary, create structure to hold you in this place of focus. That might mean shutting off the phone, turning off the Internet, going to a place where you can completely focus. Think of it as creating your meditation space.

Practice with the resistance: As you practice focus, you are likely to feel resistance towards actually focusing and doing this one thing. You’ll want to go do something else, anything else. You’ll feel great aversion to doing this one thing. It’s completely fine. Practice with this resistance as you did with the urge: noticing the physical sensation, meditating on it with curiosity, staying with it with attention and love. Again, it’s just a sensation, and you can learn to love it as you can any experience.

Let go of everything, and generously give your complete focus to one thing. Simplify, and be completely present.

You can do this with your urge to do all tasks, read all things, do all hobbies, say yes to all people and projects. But you can also do it with possessions: choose just to have what you need to be happy, and simplify by letting go of the rest. You can do the same with travel: be satisfied with where you are, or with going to one place and fully being there with it.

You don’t need to watch everything, read everything, eat everything. You can simplify and do less. You can let go and be present. You can focus mindfully.

-AG