February 05, 2016

It’s All Coming Together Now - Mindfulness, Focus, and Deep Work


Mindfulness, Focus, Deep Work

Discipline means getting into what is happening. That is just saying that you have to involve yourself in the situations you encounter in life. We have to go through the process of being part of a situation; otherwise we will not be exposed to this richness. In order to see the delight in a situation, we have to become involved in it. We have to really feel it; we have to touch the whole texture of the complete situation. Then we will be able to relate properly with the actual work involved.

Chögyam Trungpa, Work, Sex, Money : Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness 

I was listening to John Roderick and Merlin Mann talk on the latest episode of their podcast, Roderick On the Line, when the discussion turned towards how we discover books. John was talking about how he doesn’t recommend many books or other media for people to consume, because he wants people to have their own path of discovery. The idea that we each have our own path of discovery has made me think more over the past week about my own path.

The more I think about it, the more it is all coming together for me.

The fall was spent reading a lot of Buddhist literature about mindfulness, centred around Chögyam Trungpa’s writings. Towards the end of December, I started watching the videos for Shawn Blanc’s free The Elements of Focus course. That lead me to start reading Cal Newport’s new book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, that came out a few weeks ago.

Mindfulness. Focus. Deep work.

Three concepts that are all connected, that all deeply appeal to me. The question that lingers in my mind now is why do these subjects appeal to me at this time?

The answer to that question lies in the words I wrote back in September when I was thinking about what kind of loop I want to be apart of. I have been unintentionally creating my own loop of how I want to live my life and become more aware of the present. That loop happens at a micro scale during my daily life: I am taking more time out of my day to read an actual book or a few longer pieces online, less emphasis on social media, and also working out a lot more on a daily basis. On a longer timescale, I am becoming better at building in routines for work: whether it is focused on the consulting work, writing for my business blog, or planning for the next steps in my property management career.

Without any major changes in how I manage my time, I have become more focused and productive. The longer I maintain this loop, the easier it becomes and the more it feels natural to do so.

The practice of mindfulness, developing my focus, and doing more deep work, all leads to the phrase I quoted from Chögyam:

Discipline means getting into what is happening.

I am building a discipline and getting into what is happening now for me: more focused and meaningful work.

December 31, 2015

Turning 6 Years Old


She leaves a lasting impression on their lives in that short amount of time like she has done with me on a nearly daily basis the past five years. I could not be happier and prouder.

[Happy 5th birthday, Kylie](http://www.foursides.ca/Number-5/ “Number 5 Four Sides”)

Kylie

The fifth year of a person’s life seems to be a big turning point. More independent, able to make better choices, and a young personality starts to really shine through. The base of a personality always seems to be there from a very young age when they first start to learn to laugh and discover what interests them. At five, that base becomes stronger and things start to become more clear.

Seeing that transition from a not-quite-sure kindergartener to a determined-and-confident grade 1 student has been interesting. Instead of the unraveling of an onion to discover who a person is on the inside, you see the onion start to form. How they learn to tell stories to hide truths or exaggerate truths or falsehoods, and you’re left wondering, “What is true?” Most of the time, these stories are not as nefarious as adults would spin to extract a certain emotion or favour from a person. She is telling jokes, but every now and then, you catch her trying to cover up her tracks, which is generally to my amusement.

Kylie’s playfulness and innocence is something I have thoroughly enjoyed this past year. Gone are the endless “Why” questions, which always seemed to be a way to get more information without being too specific about it, and now replaced with genuine curiousity. Asking questions about the animals that have crossed our paths on our hikes, questions about consequences for people’s actions and choices (like people smoking or breaking the rules), to slightly deeper questions that catch me off guard. An example from this past month, “Was Santa Claus ever a boy?”

Kylie

I wrote about the choice to put Kylie into French immersion last year, and this year it is really paying off. Her interest in the language is much greater than it was last year, aided by her mastery of reading English. Reading French is more of a fun challenge than a chore for her. She willingly chooses to do her daily readings for school, and, more often than not, picks up a French book for us to read at night instead of an English one. She practices the language often when at home with me, asking questions or saying what something is in French. When she comes across some people speaking French in public, she will pause and smile at them, but doesn’t have the confidence yet to even say, “Bonjour.” By the time I write this next year, I am sure she will be wanting to converse with these strangers in her non-native tongue.

While French is still her second language, her mastery of English is becoming rather scary. If she sees words somewhere, she’s reading it. It doesn’t matter if is a minor sign saying the hours of a business, or a major one like the strata rules for our outdoor pool, she wants to read it all. This is only a nuisance if we happen to be in a rush for something, otherwise, I am more than content to let her read and learn more words. The problem arises when she is starting to master spelling and typing to go along with her reading skills. She has quickly learned how to type messages to family and friends on my iPhone, and has also managed to post selfies with a message to Facebook without me being aware.

Kylie

The last part is a little frightening. She has learned how to hold the phone away from her, get the right angle, and get the perfect smile. Her love of the camera is quite the opposite of what I was like at her age. I bring the phone out to take a picture, and her face turns into a smile almost instantly now. It’s quite the joy to see and has some comedic effects in moments.

Needless to say, it has been a fun year of exploring the city and learning more about who this little girl is becoming. Hiking down to Paul’s Tomb, biweekly walks through downtown Kelowna, down Mission Creek or to Hardy Falls, and a short trip to Vancouver has kept us busy this year. Next year will bring as many adventures as this one, and perhaps a few more road trips with me or her mother. As always, I am greatly curious to see where 2016 takes my little girl as she gets closer to becoming a pre-teen.

Happy 6th birthday, to my sweet daughter.

Kylie

Kylie’s Favourites 2015:

Song: Sean Mendes - ‘Stitches’

Show: Peppa Pig

Book: Nate the Great

iOS game: My PlayHome

Plus, fun with Friends Lego

December 29, 2015

The Journey of 2015


Do not think

“I’ll go as I please!”

when taking a journey.

Rather, think, “I may have some problems.”

and you’ll be free as a bird.

— Yasumi Roan

Winter

I finished reading Walking the Kiso Road by William Scott Wilson this morning.

It is his personal guide to walking along this ancient road in central Japan, telling stories about the people he has met, the old inns he stayed in, and the history behind the shrines and temples dispersed through the valley. Throughout his book are countless haikus and quotes from old Japanese poets inspired by the forests and river running through the valley. I found it to be a relaxing, inspiring read, going through it a chapter at a time when I needed a quiet moment to myself.

Yesterday, I took a long walk along the Mission Creek Greenway here in Kelowna. The night before, it had snowed roughly six inches, which made the trail even more snow covered than before. The walk was slower going as my feet slid off the more packed areas into the softer snow, giving me more time to think about the book. It is less a travel guide for the area, and more about showing a way to travel. How to follow your curiosity and explore the stories hidden just around the corner from you. All you need is to take those extra few steps and not be too concerned about the activities of home.

Be present in the moment.

Winter

I thought about the journey I took this past year and how his message could be applied1. Not so much the personal trials and errors I had with my [failure to pass an exam](http://www.foursides.ca/36-What-Took-You-So-Long “What Took You So Long Four Sides”)2, my non-existent [dating life](http://www.foursides.ca/My-Problems-With-Dating/ “My Problems with Dating Four Sides”), or discovering my [inner loop](http://www.foursides.ca/the-call-of-silence “The Call of Silence Four Sides”), but more about the places I visited beyond the cities of Vancouver and Whitehorse.

2015 was the year I pushed my body to go up higher hills, cross streams, and walk along steep hillsides to discover what was around that next bend, over the hill, or how far my body could take me. According to RunKeeper, I logged over 200 kms on trails this year. I am guessing that amount is likely closer to 300 kms because I tended to lose GPS signal or killed my battery prematurely. Probably not an impressive amount for someone who routinely runs 5-15 km daily. It is double what I did the previous year, which makes me happy.

Looking over the photographs I have taken over the year, I came across some amazing views and discovered great stories within the area surrounding Kelowna. From the easily accessible tomb marker of Rembler Paul, to the more difficult base of Pinnacle Rock in Dan Gallagher’s old placer mining fields, to the old estate of James Cameron Dun-Waters in [Fintry](http://www.foursides.ca/An-Afternoon-in-Fintry-BC “An Afternoon in Fintry Four Sides”) half an hour outside of Kelowna. I explored the many trails of Myra-Bellevue and Okanagan Mountain Provincial Parks, and went along the old wooden trestle bridges of the Kettle Valley railway. Each place has a history written over top of a previous history, and a previous one before that.

And now each place has a new history being written, a new significance for each person that crosses its paths. Paul’s Tomb witnessed people basking in the rays of the sun, picnics, and also a drowning this year. Gallagher’s Canyon has seen cars go over the cliff faces. Fintry was repurposed as an agriculture college and then to a provincial campground. Myra-Bellevue is the place where I almost was bowled over by a deer coming around a bend and another coming out of the brush- neither of us seeing the other, both jumped when confronted. Kettle Valley was home to my daughter’s first encounter with a black bear in the wild (from a safe distance.)

Some of these moments will be lost in time, others remain to be rediscovered.

The important thing is I came across these places and took in what they had to offer me at that moment. It’s part of the reason why I visited them multiple times through the summer. I wanted different experiences crossing the same path or to go down a new path and find out where it led me. When I came across the Buddhist writings and books about mindfulness, I began to understand how to wipe the slate clean when I visited these places and to not carry the daily stress of my life with me. Hiking became a moving meditation for me, a way to rediscover [my breath](http://www.foursides.ca/all-we-have-is-breath “All We Have Is Breath Four Sides”).

Letting the stress go was and still is a challenge. As each day passes, I am learning more about the best ways for me to move on. Reading quiet books like Walking the Kiso Road is one way; walking and hiking another. For my journey through 2016, my goal has been set to log more kilometres in RunKeeper, and continue the search around Kelowna to find more places and experiences that help me let go of what is bothering me and learn to be more present than I have in the past.

Fish are made for water; men are made for the Road. Those who are made for the water immerse themselves totally in ponds and are nourished by them. Those who are made for the Road live carefree and tranquil. Thus it is said, ‘Fish do not think about the water, and men do not worry about the Road or how to walk it.

— Confucius, The Analects

Winter

  1. Also, be sure to read my friend Jennifer Thomson’s Let’s Reflect: 2015

  2. Which I did pass on the second time around.

November 19, 2015

Frosty Weather


Dispatch + Frost

After how pleased I was with my Line of Trade canvas bag that arrived last month, I decided to continue on with Bespoke Post to see what the next offerings would be. I settled on ordering their Frost box and it arrived a few days ago. I was quite excited to open it up because the feature item was a pair of lambskin leather gloves from Gilded Age.

Simply put: these gloves are amazing.

I had a pair of other gloves that were okay for walking around in during the cool fall weather here in Kelowna, but I found my hands getting cold in temperatures below 0°C here. That happens to be the average temperature for a winter here, so I wanted to find something better. When the lambskin gloves showed up as an option, I leapt at the chance to try them out.

Trying on the gloves for the first time, they are a little snug, but after a few days they have stretched out enough to feel great on my hands. The leather is soft to touch on the outside, very smooth, and not bulky at all. I was able to slide them into the front pocket of my jeans easily to retrieve my keys. The inside is lined with a wool-cashmere blend that feels perfect on the hands, and a wrist snap to keep them snug to your arms. The gloves also have separate pads on the index fingers and thumbs to allow you to operate your touchscreen phones. While the pads do work on my iPhone, I didn’t play around with it too much, mainly because I’m not super comfortable texting on my phone while walking around regardless of whether I am wearing gloves or not.

The perfect test for the gloves is a long walk outside in varying temperatures. I took them out for a 3km walk to my favourite coffee place in Kelowna[^1] in the sunshine, and then returned on a shorter 2km path after the sun had set and the weather cooled off. My biggest concerns with any fall/winter clothing is sweating too much. I tend to get sick easily when unzipping a jacket to cool off or removing my toque when I get too sweaty. Thankfully, by the time I reached the coffee shop and pulled off my gloves, they weren’t sweaty at all. Nice and dry to handle the hot mug holding my Americano.

Heading back, they kept my hands warm when going past the strong winds coming off the lake. I did not feel much of a breeze on my wrists either. The wrist straps kept the gloves tight to my arms, which was appreciated. The clasps were a bit tricky to snap once I had a glove on, but I think after some practice that frustration will disappear.

Also included in the Frost box, was a white pine hand salve from Barnaby Black. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical of how it would smell or feel. I’m not one for lotions beyond my shaving supplies from Harry’s 1 but I am open to change. The smell of the hand salve is intoxicating. It reminds me of being outdoors on my hikes so much, that I actually have the open jar sitting out beside me while I work. It smells exactly how you would imagine white pine sap to smell. Rubs easily into my hands and they don’t feel sticky afterwards. A little goes a long way and I am sure it will last me through the short winter here.

There was also a large box of Fisherman’s Friends cough lozenges which are sugar-free. They are my preferred brand for when I get sick, so this was a nice bonus.

Altogether, this box was $45.00 US, which becomes $80.00 Canadian after shipping and exchange rate. Well worth it, in my opinion. The hand salve is listed at $20.00 US on Barnaby Black’s website. Comparable gloves were priced around $35-50.00. Throw in the large box of cough drops and it’s quite the good deal.

I am sure to be warm on my winter walks this coming winter and for many years to come.

Check out all the fine details at: Bespoke Post [^1]: Il Travolino on Richter, behind Save-On Foods in Lower Mission.

  1. I have two free razors to give out. Email me: james@foursides.ca

November 11, 2015

36 - What Took You So Long


There have only been roughly 18,000 players in the history of Major League Baseball. How many out of that number have played in a playoff game? One third maybe? I’ve played over 1,400 games, and that was my first playoff series. Out of those 6,000 or so, how many players have been lucky enough to be in a position to change the outcome of a playoff series with one swing? Maybe 10 percent? And how many have succeeded?

None of this math was going through my head when I was standing at the plate. That came later on, when I had time to reflect at home. All I was thinking in the moment was, This is your chance. Just relax. Get ready early. See it and hit it. – Jose Bautista, Are You Flipping Kidding Me?

Bautista didn’t just hit it; he crushed it.

That moment meant more for the die-hard Blue Jay fans than anything in the past 22 seasons of play. It’s difficult to place into words how meaningful it was. The raw emotions that people felt from coast to coast to coast were such a mix: tears of joy, excitement, amazement, disbelief.

Today is my 36th birthday. It’s the fifth year I have written these retrospections of the past year. Each year, I seem to learn more about myself, especially when reading through the previous years’ posts. It is an interesting journey to re-read the heartache, the stress, and the small breakthroughs I continue to make. This year has been no different. More stress and breakthrough than heartache, but that is to be expected when I have problems dating.

This year, I wanted to start with baseball. Not because it delivered one of the biggest moments of the year for me, but for how it relates to my minor breakthrough this year.

Baseball is measured by a player’s ability to fail less than the rest. Percentages, decimal points, even the game is ended with a failure- an out. Failure is inevitable in baseball, it’s just a matter of who fails less than the others in the game.

Failure is inevitable in life, as well. It is something we want to avoid as much as possible, but despite our attempts to get around it, it happens. This year has taught me more about how to deal with failure than ever before.

In previous years, I fostered this deep anger inside me when things didn’t go right. I can see it in the words I used when writing about the breakup four years ago, or the struggles I faced in building up readership for this blog. My cure for the hurt and disappointment was always to write

There have been multiple times before where I wanted to sit down and write out my thoughts, to respond to other blog posts, and to zone out while watching a movie. It is what I did in the past to conquer my failures and disappointments. Doing such is not the best way for me to feel better, however. It is a band-aid put on a gaping wound.

Writing wasn’t very effective in helping me manage disappointments then, and it wasn’t until this year when things started to change. Reading and writing more about mindfulness and Buddhist practices has helped me focus on what matters: the breath. The present moment.

The past should not be dwelled upon, nor should future achievements. Only on what is happening in the moment.

That point is constantly on my mind now. It is both wonderful and powerful with how it softens the blow of disappointments I have received in the latter half of the year. The biggest test of this happened in September.

Last August, I enrolled to be licensed in property management through the University of British Columbia. I set a deadline of completing the course work before my daughter ended the school year in June. My thinking was I could write the exam in the next month while everything was fresh in my mind. Starting in late January, I started going through the assignments and was on pace to finish on time. I completed the final assignment and then looked at the schedule for when I could write the exam: they were scheduled quarterly, with the next one happening in September.

That was a little disappointing, but no big deal. Several months to enjoy the summer weather with my daughter, manage the vacation rental, and the other work I needed to take care of. August came around and I started to delve back into the material. I was getting nervous about the exam because of the large amount of material involved. In the exam room, I took some deep breaths while they went through the instructions, then wrote the exam rather quickly. I had to wait three weeks for the results.

I failed. Barely, but barely doesn’t matter on an exam score, just like it doesn’t matter in baseball. I missed the homerun by 3 feet. The kind of hits that no one remembers.

After reading the results, I took a hike out to my favourite place, Paul’s Tomb, and sat out on the rocks overlooking the lake. All I did was sit, take it all in, and put the failure behind me. It was a minor setback, something I can overcome in three months time and put myself back on track for greater things. It didn’t matter why I failed, or what questions I missed. The important thing was I was breathing. I would do better.

That tone in thought has continued through the past few months. Not losing weight fast enough? Breathe, and do better. Someone fails to pay me back on time leaving me short? Breathe, and make do. Someone lies to me or tries to start an argument? Breathe, and put it behind me as fast as I can without letting it escalate into something worse.

A constant cycle of deep breathing, and emphasizing what matters most to me in each moment.

Putting the emphasis back on me and not putting so much energy towards negative things that have happened in my life has improved my outlook on life. It is still difficult at times, of course, and I know failure is right around the corner once again. When it does happen though, I will be better prepared to handle it.

I am sure I will read this over next year and for years after wondering, “What took you so long?”


35

34

33

32

Five ways to wish me a happy birthday:

  1. Treat yourself to some of the best coffee out there, and give me a cup at the same time at: Blue Bottle Coffee
  2. Order the Aeropress, my favourite way to brew coffee: [Canada](http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B002ZD3QJC/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=15121&creative=390961&creativeASIN=B002ZD3QJC&linkCode=as2&tag=fousid-20 “Aeropress Amazon Canada”) and [USA](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0018RY8H0/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0018RY8H0&linkCode=as2&tag=four0b-20 “Aeropress Amazon USA”)
  3. Order one of my favourite books this year which set me down the mindfulness/Buddhist path: Buddha Walks Into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation
  4. Discover some really great products at BespokePost
  5. Or make a Donation

November 03, 2015

Fifty Thousand Words


I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for years, but the thing is: 50,000. That’s a big number, like almost an insurmountable number. I’ve never felt like I wanted to participate, but I always was impressed with those who did manage to at least try.

So this year I am going to do it. But I’m not writing a novel. Ben Brooks, My NaNoWriMo Challenge

When I [mentioned earlier](http://www.foursides.ca/i-made-a-thing “I Made a Thing Four Sides”) that I was considering taking up the NaNoWriMo novel challenge, I had similar thoughts as Ben. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed impossible for me to muster the creative energy to write that many words that flowed together in a logical manner. 50,000 words is not impossible if I allow myself the space to write about in a manner with more freedom.

Towards the end of my Dispatch piece on Medium, I wrote about the ideas overflowing in my mind. Every day I open up Safari to see many tabs of articles I wish to touch on or that have inspired me in some way. I need a better habit of getting those ideas out into the world on a consistent basis. So for the month of November, I am going to try to publish 50,000 words between this site and Medium. In the end, I may bundle it all together.

You can keep track of my progress, and what else I am up to on a new [Now](http://www.foursides.ca/now “Now Four Sides”) page which is a growing movement around the world.

October 26, 2015

Thoughts On Money


For the monks, this way of life expressed simplicity. It wasn’t an expression of poverty mentality. With this monastic approach, you don’t worry about survival. You live day-to-day. You think just of today; you don’t think of tomorrow. Tomorrow comes, it doesn’t come- either way, you don’t worry. You continue to live in a very simple way. It is an everyday life of simplicity.

The problem is not always how little money you have to spare but, rather, whether you are allowing enough space for yourself. The sense of poverty often seems connected with a lack of space. It may seem pretentious or insensitive to suggest to a destitute person that they need to create more mental space, if they are living in financially troubled conditions. However, if you can appreciate the aspect of simplicity in your life, then you don’t have to involve yourself with money more than is really necessary.

Chögyam Trungpa, Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness

My relationship with money has always been strenuous. It seems when I have money, I tend to give it away; when I don’t have it, I still tend to give away what I can.

I could never really figure out why this happens nor why I was so comfortable with giving the money away. It never seemed to matter what my financial state was, even if it left me being on the brink of disaster, I was always generous. To be clear, I have never left myself in a desperate situation where I found myself living in a car, and I do treat myself now and then to things like the Macbook Pro last year, or the canvas bag from Bespoke this month. More often than not though, I reach the end of the month and wonder where all the money went. The thoughts linger for a flash, then I am at peace with my situation again.

I have been like this since my first real full-time job as a technical director at the Regina Performing Arts Centre. At that time, I didn’t loan money out to people, but I did go out and purchase new lighting fixtures for the theatre without charging it back. I also donated a lot of equipment to the theatre when I left that position without feeling like I lost money. In the coming years, it was buying people drinks at the bar or loaning small amounts to help them get by. Almost always, this was done without thinking, an automatic response to others’ needs.

When I started reading the chapters about money in Chögyam’s book, it started to make more sense to me why this happens.

Chögyam defines the personal value of money beyond its monetary value and introduces the concept that money is related to energy. You can spend the money like you give love and have it be returned equally, or you exert your energy to gain power and control over another. Because of the power money has, it is constantly on our minds, from worrying about how much we have, to how much something will cost, to how much we will be earning by completing a task. We grow attached to money, wanting to keep our energy banks full for when we need to use it for love or power.

When we grow beyond the egotistical demands of money and become more generous with it, we give people more than just money or objects. We are giving those people the opportunity to free themselves from the relationship they have developed with money. They stop thinking about how much something cost, and more about what that item means to them. When an object is thought of only as an object, it frees them to develop their own sense of value for that item.

This is the mental space he describes in the quote at the beginning. If the monetary value of an object is ignored and separated from the object, then we are not as concerned when that object is damaged or lost. We forget about losing a thousand dollars, and focus more on that we lost something that can be replaced in time.

This detachment of monetary value from an object is not a simple task and something that definitely takes time to produce. There is no simple path to this besides becoming more aware of how you spend money, and how you feel when spending it. Spending money on lots of things or expensive things is not necessarily a bad thing either he says, unless the motivation behind those purchases could be considered bad. If you use the purchases to place yourself above someone or a group to look down on them then that is a negative practice, for example.

However, by living a simple life, the detachment from money becomes easier. This is a very desirable goal from Chögyam’s point of view. We become free from the chains money holds over us to create the mental space. The mental space allows us to see the greater opportunities surrounding us, like sharing with others and helping them become free.

You should try to create a space of loneliness as much as possible in your lifestyle, whether you are rich or poor.

As we become less concerned with money, our mind becomes divided. Our concerns with money become isolated in a different part of our mind, which allows us to concentrate on the things that matter most to us in life. When we have that separation in place, then we will only think of money when absolutely necessary.

At some point in my life, I must have started to cultivate that separation on my own. Now that I am more aware of it, I will continue the process to create a more defined space of loneliness that Chögyam describes, and continue living a simpler life.

October 22, 2015

Dispatch


Starting a bit of a social experiment: publishing smaller pieces to Medium and working on lengthier pieces here.

First one was published, Dispatch:

I thought it fitting that the word dispatch has multiple meanings that can tie into Hume and my own exploratory writings. The definition of the word can mean a short message sent quickly, or the dismissal or rejection of something. Two things that I hope to accomplish with writing in this space.

October 14, 2015

Ego And Work


If there is that kind of communication going on between yourself and the object, then ego doesn’t get a chance to digest anything; it doesn’t get a report back from you and your work. When your work becomes natural and spontaneous communication, ego doesn’t get a chance to act as a middle man. Generally what happens, however, is that ego has messengers that bring information back to its switchboard. Then ego accepts or rejects. Everything depends on the pleasure of ego. On the other hand, if you have good, fluid communication with the work, then you are working without ego’s authority, which is very humiliating for the ego.

Chögyam Trungpa, Work, Sex, Money

The type of communication Chögyam is discussing is our reactions when we see something: bending over to smell a flower, taking a picture of a sunset, smiling when seeing a toddler run up to you. Those reactions are natural and instinctive. When dealing with work, referring to any task, there is an additional obstacle in place that doesn’t allow for the natural progression to completion. We stop to analyze what has been done and what needs to be done, which leads to discouragement in one form or another.

I have been having the urge to write for the past week, but every time I sat down at my computer to start the process, nothing came of it. I thought about why this was happening when I was on a three hour hike in the hills surrounding Kelowna the other day. The quietness of nature and separation from distraction allowed me to think more clearly about the reasons that prevented me from writing and doing the work.

I remembered that I had saved a quote from Chögyam related to my problems. I read it more carefully and discovered my primary issue:

We have two quite common approaches to work: filling the space so there is no room for the creative process, or being afraid of the creative process and therefore being unwilling to embark on it. … By filling the space instead of letting be and letting a creative process develop, ego automatically imposes the next clue on our awareness about what is taking place. This is because we are afraid of a gap, which would allow us to look back and see our basic origin. It is very disturbing for ego to see its own nakedness, which brings the sense of a defeat for the ego. Therefore, when you see this open space, you become afraid of embarking on any further creative process that might reveal the space again.

I am constantly finding inspiring words in the Buddhist literature, with Chögyam quickly becoming one of my favourites. I have been saving the quotes to my phone’s notes app in the moment so I can write about them later, only to discover my motivation to write disappears when I read them again. Even now, I started off reading the second quote and questioning whether I could write more about it. I took the time to read the entire chapter once again, and here I am writing.

Defeating the ego in order to accomplish something is more difficult than the actual task for many of us. He defines ego to be derived from confusion, which comes from fear and panic. The simplest way to describe it is to imagine yourself in an uncomfortable situation (lost in the woods, or stuck in a convention hall with thousands of people you don’t know). You don’t know what may happen, you start to panic about what to do, and you’re so confused by all the options available that you end up doing nothing.

Making the decision to be doing something without worrying about the consequences is tough. The mind is quick to come up with so many obstacles to ensure you don’t make any progress at all. That happens with my writing constantly and it needs to stop. I need to quit analyzing what I am writing and focus on doing the writing. I also need to further develop my connection between my mind and the words, not be afraid of what I am typing and trust that it will be valuable when done.

My issue with ego and work is not restricted to my writing. It is there with my other work. Completing [the book](http://www.foursides.ca/i-made-a-thing “I Made a Thing Four Sides”) late last week was a big challenge. There was constant doubt about what I was doing and whether to stop, but I reminded myself of the commitment I made to publish it by Friday. I reached that goal and it felt great to have something finished. But I also noticed that the concerns about having another gap in my work life. I did not have a next project to begin or other project in the works that needed to be finished. I almost delayed the launch- not because of not being finished, but because I did not want to be done.

The battle is still happening with my health and fitness, too. It seems so long ago that I made the initial jump to explore the paleo lifestyle only to find excuses along the way to pull me back. Whether it was money or stress, I never fully committed to that lifestyle. I decided to push myself more and try to make it happen again.

I have been fasting for most of the day and limiting my eating periods to a few hours in the afternoon to help my body transition to using fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrates. The first few days of this were awful, but by the fourth day I was feeling much better. I did my three hour hike before I ate and I felt much better going up the hills than the other times. That was surprising and very encouraging. Every morning, I’m feeling better and trying real hard to not focus on the weight loss. It will come if I keep working at it.

These are only a few areas of my life where I am discovering the challenges the ego is placing on me. I know there are others, and I am eager to break down those barriers to see where I end up as a person. It will take time, and work, but it will happen.

October 09, 2015

I Made A Thing


I’ve been quiet in my space1 here for several weeks for good reason. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about the practice of mindfulness and Buddhism, which I hope to tackle more of in the coming weeks, but I also did something a little unexpected: I made a thing.

I decided to take on a challenge being promoted by Gumroad, the online digital goods store. The challenge was to conceive, create, and publish something within ten days. I didn’t go as deep into this challenge as other members of the challenge did (not posting in the group regularly or partnering up), but I did create something and pushed it out into the world.

My creation is a short ebook to help introduce people to the world of vacation rentals. With me getting my property management license in the new year, I thought the book would be a good give-away to generate business for my consulting services. Around 10,000 words in length. In the coming weeks, I plan to create some spreadsheet tools that people can use to assist them in preparing for launching a vacation rental but I think this is a good start.

It was my first real writing project that I have undertaken since my University days and I quite enjoyed the process. I couldn’t think too much about what to write. I just did it.

The frightening thing is it went so well for me, that I’m contemplating attempting the NaNoWriMo challenge to create a short novel in a month. I have three weeks to prepare for that so it may just happen.

In the meantime, my book is free for now. Check it out and forward to friends if you know someone interested in it: Vacation Rental Revolution

  1. Yes, I know, I’m generally quiet everywhere.


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