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The Love Bomb Collection

 

Hey Everybody! I made a thing!

I was futzing around drawing the other day, and this Love Bomb jumped out of my head and onto the paper. I loved it so much, I made a shirt out of it and ordered one for myself. Now I’m giving you the chance to do the same! If we’re going to drop any bombs in 2018, let’s make sure they’re Love Bombs!

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It’s Moving Day!!

Hey Everyone! Going forward, please join me over at my Patreon page here for new content. Details below:

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger — something better, pushing right back.”

– Albert Camus

I found this quote years ago. I always liked the idea of an “invincible summer” from the moment I read it and it became an aspiration of mine to achieve, if not an “invincible summer” than at least a “fairly hearty spring” within myself. Having been a cynical, sarcastic, and mostly miserable gen-x bastard for most of my life, this seemed like a tall order…and it was.

But I found my summer.

One day I woke up and realized that if I didn’t turn my focus inward and begin to consciously move my life in a direction of joy and enthusiasm, that I may never make it. So, I quit my job, got rid of most of my belongings, and set off on a spiritual quest that has brought me to where I am today…a much happier, relaxed, and purposeful place. It has been a long journey and, of course, the process is ongoing, but I can tell you this: I have never been happier and more content in my entire life…and now I am chronicling the journey that brought me here in the hopes that others might find some benefit in the path I’ve been walking.

Over the next year, I’ll be writing a book about my experiences in transformation and techniques I used to encourage, nurture, trick, and cajole my mind to change itself into a machine that can produce joy, regardless of the circumstances it finds itself in. I’ll also be writing my usual “slice of life” essays and producing videos on my experiences in creating a better life, wherever you are.

By becoming a patron, you will have access to chapters of the book as I finish them, essays, videos, chats with me, and behind the scenes peeks at my process. When all is said and done, book-wise, you’ll receive a digital copy of the finished work…all for just $1.00 per month!

Of course, you don’t have to join in order to see content! There is no paywall. Pay as much or as little as you want. Pay nothing if you don’t believe you should. And if you ever do become a patron, but decide to stop, no hard feelings. But if you’re digging what I produce and you’d like to support a writer in his dream to go full time…by all means…throw me a dollar. I promise I won’t spend it at the saloon or the card table. Any help is wildly, gratefully, and sincerely appreciated!

Visit my Patreon page here.

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Joy is a Choice

Often, we simply react to the events we experience without realizing that we have choice when it comes to how we feel about them. We operate under a “conditional happiness” that only appears when the world conforms to how we think it “should” be…but we don’t have to. We can choose joy under any circumstances and cultivate an unconditional kind of happiness that isn’t dependent on reality conforming to our ideas about it. Subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

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Phenomenal

I was standing in line at the grocery store awhile ago, it was late afternoon, and the sun was streaming through the windows and backlighting the redwood trees across the parking lot. The line was moving slowly and I decided that, instead of getting stressed out about waiting or pulling out my phone to distract myself, I would use the time to just be there…to notice things…to do a standing meditation of sorts. The truth was, I was in no hurry. I wasn’t late for anything, nobody was expecting me at a certain time, and I didn’t need the line to be moving any faster than it was…so I relaxed and just took things in.

About five minutes later it was my turn to go, and when I got to the register, the checker asked me how I was. Now, we all know that 99% of people that ask this question don’t really want the answer. “How are you?” is just the socially acceptable opening salvo in any transaction and “good” is the expected response…or “can’t complain” or “okay” or any other middle of the road, non-committal mumbling that you can muster before getting on with the exchange. But I didn’t say any of these.

I said “phenomenal!”

I don’t know why I said it. Maybe I was still in meditation mode. I didn’t think about it…I know that.  It just came out. The checker gave me a bemused smile and said “good for you” in a way that let me know she thought I was clearly insane. Maybe I was, a little, but the weird thing was that saying it immediately made me feel better. Like, a lot better.

When I got to the parking lot, I started trying to figure out where that came from. What prompted me to break ranks with “good” or “okay” and shoot straight to the unmistakably, overtly positive, “phenomenal”?  I still didn’t know…but the resulting feeling was interesting.

When I got in line, I certainly wouldn’t have described my mood as phenomenal. I was in a subpar Safeway at 4:45 in the afternoon on a Friday, waiting while a mass of humanity emptied carts, packed bags, and dealt with malfunctioning chips on their ATM cards. Phenomenal doesn’t normally appear under those circumstances. Was I lying? Did I just put on a front to appear as a more positive person who, on the surface, looked like he was doing better than he actually was? Maybe.

Once I said it, though…I started to believe it a little. It was like my brain started to make up reasons as to why I might feel that way. I had called “phenomenal” into being by accident…and now my day felt lighter. It might have started as a small lie, but calling it forward had transformed it into truth.

Since then, “phenomenal” or similar descriptors have become my standard reply to “How are you?”. Sometimes people will be curious enough to ask why, and then my brain will go about making up all the reasons I have to be “phenomenal” or “amazing” or what have you. It’s a neat trick to raise my vibration for myself and it definitely changes people’s perception of me. They don’t know what to do with a “phenomenal” in a sea of “goods” or “okays”…but they seem to be mostly delighted in their confusion, so I count it as a win for both of us.

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Setting Intentions Like a Bodhisattva

How taking the focus away from the ego and turning it on the world can open up a tremendous space for joy and transformation. Subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

The Bodhisattva Prayer

May I be a protector to those without protection

May I be a leader for those who journey

May I be a boat, a bridge, and a passge

For those who desire the further shore

May I be the doctor and the medicine

And may I be a nurse for all sick beings in the world until everyone is healed and the pain of every living creature is completely swept away

And for as long as space remains

And for as long as sentient beings remain

Until then may I also remain

To dispel the miseries of the world

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Working with Fear

The two questions I always ask that bring me out of fear and back to the present. Subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

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French Fries and The Meaning of Life

People make money in a lot of different ways in Mexico. One way that you see quite often down by the beach is for parents to take out their youngest and cutest child and to have them walk up to tourists with a tray of small candies or gum and ask for five pesos in return for one of the treats. It’s a little like reverse trick or treating with commerce involved.

One night, I was sitting at an outdoor restaurant, eating what was possibly the worst veggie burger I’d ever had, when I was approached by the cutest little girl on the planet, who was carrying one of these small trays with assorted candies. She was probably no more than four years-old and she had eyes as big and as deep as the ocean. When she walked up with her tray and turned those blinkers on me, I was helpless. A puddle. I selected some Chiclet-like gum from her tray, then gave her five pesos and a hearty “gracias” for her offering. But after the transaction was over, she didn’t leave. Instead, she gave me a big smile and pointed at my french fries.

After a quick glance at her dad to make sure it was okay, I gave her a french fry and I had one myself. I made a big deal out of enjoying it…making “mmm…mmm” sounds and rubbing my belly like it was the best thing I’d ever tasted. She thought this was really funny and joined in. We sat there goofing off like this for three or four more fries and then her father let her know it was time to push on. Before she left, I handed her the bag containing the rest of my fries and she skipped off to join her father and to show him her treasure. As they were walking away, I saw her offer her dad a french fry (which he took and made a big deal out of enjoying just like I had) before they joined hands and disappeared down the street.

It was so sweet that it made my heart hurt. Not because I felt sorry for their financial situation, or because I wished I could have helped them more (that’s automatic). My heart was hurting now because I realized that, after all my years of beating the bushes for meaningful experiences from life, it turns out that there is little that is more meaningful to me than sharing a french fry with a four year old.

I mean, if you’re looking for the meaning of life, one doesn’t have to go much further than that. The innocence and playfulness of a kid, the love between a father and daughter, the making the best out of a difficult situation, the simple joy of tasting a french fry. It’s all there, if…and this is key…if you are awake to how deep the small moments like this can be. That’s the difference…and that’s why my heart was hurting now. I was mourning the loss of all the moments like this I probably missed because I was looking for something bigger. Something earth shattering.

We humans spend a lot of time chasing meaning like it’s some big, external, mysterious thing…but is it really? Is the secret of life, the universe, and everything some huge and unfathomable riddle that we never have a prayer of solving…or is it the joy of a little girl, the love of her father…and some potatoes, fat, and salt thrown in for good measure?

I’m siding with potatoes.

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Rich

I got up this morning when my alarm on my incredibly well engineered and reliable phone went off. I filled my electric kettle with clean water from the tap and poured myself a bowl of oatmeal that I cooked in my microwave. When the water was boiling in the kettle, I poured myself a cup of coffee which had been grown, picked, transported, roasted, and ground for me to enjoy. After breakfast, I sat down on my well made meditation cushion and wrapped a wool blanket around me to stay warm. When my meditation was over, I switched on the light, made my way to the bathroom, turned on the shower, and hot water came out. After my shower, I pulled on my clean clothes from the dryer, threw on my warm winter jacket and headed out the door. Once outside, I got into my reliable used car which started on the first try and drove to my usual, free parking spot. From there I had a brisk and beautiful two mile walk to work, during which the sun rose over the hills and I traded smiles with the all the regular commuters that I see every day. Twenty minutes later, I said hello to my friend Pete and gave him a dollar to help him out before heading to the corner store to buy my usual two bananas and to say hello to Rosie who works behind the counter. Once outside, I put my headphones in, dialed up the exact song I wanted to hear on Spotify and bounced down the street to my job, where I work with a bunch of nice kids and one of the best bosses I’ve ever had…and where it is my job to take care of beautiful, energetic, and hilarious birds all day.

By my count, that’s thirty-two things to be grateful for…in only the first three hours that I’m awake. How could I ever think that I was anything but rich?

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High Master

In 2008, I met my friend Chris who is an incredibly curious, motivated, and energetic being and whose thirst for fun and making art for art’s sake was a perfect match for me and my penchant for the same.
 
It was one of those friendships that is more like a partnership. Not in the romantic sense, but that the relationship has an electricity to it that makes you think anything is possible and that the two of you may well be able to take over the world. He was my creative soul mate. Ideas just flowed between us, and neither of us let our egos get in the way of anything we were working on. It was a beautiful collaboration…and we did lots of projects together.
 
One day, Chris came to me with an idea for a rock opera called High Master that was about a time travelling viking (Chris) who was frozen in a glacier by the Dark Lord (Me!) while he made off to his mountain lair with High Master’s wife. Centuries later, High Master is discovered by a scientist (our drummer, Ken) who is unsuccessfully developing a time machine. The scientist thaws the glacier and High Master is reanimated. As it turns out, High Master holds the key to making the scientist’s time machine work, and that key is…HIGH OCTANE ROCK! Now with an operational time machine, High Master and the scientist head back across the centuries to find the Dark Lord and defeat him.
 
When Chris finished explaining the plot, I didn’t even have to think about it. I just said: “It’s totally ridiculous. When do we start?”
 
So, we spent the next four months writing songs and rehearsing in a stupidly cold and small studio space that we were subletting from a grumpy potter for $100 a month. It was cramped, smelly, and the breakers would flip if we tried to plug too many things in…but it was honestly one of the most fun things that I had ever done.
 
When we weren’t working on the music, we were working on props, scenery, and costumes. You can’t have a rock opera, even a low budget one, without some production values, right? So, we made tunics and swords and a goofy looking panel with lights on it that was supposed to represent the time machine. The whole thing began to look like a punked out, maker faire musical…which was just fine with us.
 
In addition to our own props, we decided we wanted to involve the audience as much as possible, so we went out and bought seventy-five foam swords at Dollar General and planned to hand them out to the crowd (what could go wrong?), so they could participate in the final battle between good and evil that ended the show. We also fabricated two giant twenty-sided dice (The Dice of Fate!) that the audience would roll at the very end to determine what would become of the Dark Lord.
 
At about 120 days into the project, we were ready for our opening night.
 
As luck would have it, we knew someone who regularly threw house parties and hosted punk bands from out of town. You know the drill: Kegs, obscenely loud music, angry neighbors, etc. Anyway, he said we could play on a double bill with one of our favorite, local girl punk bands called Pink Flag (Shout out, ladies!), and we were stoked.
 
When the night came and we showed up in our costumes to load in our gear, we were super nervous. I mean, we had developed this thing in a creative vacuum and hadn’t showed it to anyone. Plus, we were getting a lot of side eye from the hipsters and punks who were milling about on the lawn outside. This was either going to be the best night of our creative lives, or the most epic musical failure ever. Only time would tell.
 
While Chris got the sound sorted out, I skulked around with the foam swords and asked if people wanted to be in High Master’s Army of Light, or in The Dark Lord’s Hoarde. Luckily, the crowd more or less split itself evenly between good and evil and I gave them the instruction to begin the battle when they heard the song “Fight!”. Now the crowd seemed to be getting into the spirit of this thrift store performance art piece we were pedalling and people began to ask each other what army they had chosen and who they thought would win the final battle. This boded well for us.
 
And sure enough, by the time we hit the stage and played the first few chords of our title song, “High Master”, the crowd was totally with us. People were dancing, mini sword skirmishes were breaking out all over the room, and people immediately began screaming along with the chorus. Chris and I had the biggest shit eating grins on our faces that we could manage. We had made something good. We were rock stars.
 
The rest of the set went just as well. We ripped into the “Dark Lord’s Lament”, slapped and popped our way through our funky reggae martial arts jam, “Kung Future”, and polished off the rest of the set list with very few hitches. Then it was time for the final battle. As High Master raised his mighty sword and called his army of light together, we slammed into “Fight” and the audience went nuts. In retrospect, although no one was hurt, handing out swords to drunk twenty-somethings at a rock show was probably not our finest idea…but man, was it fun to watch. People were fake dying left and right, dramatic slow motion broadsword battles were everywhere, and most of the crowd ended up “dead” on the floor, victims of the final battle.
 
As the song ended, the smoke cleared, and the Dark Lord had been imprisoned, Chris led the crowd in a chant. “Roll the dice of fate! Roll the dice of fate!” As this was going on, I handed the massive (too big for a house party) dice to the crowd. They began to throw them like beachballs at an outdoor venue and ended up breaking a ceiling fan and a lamp, but nobody stopped. The crowd was like a cult now. Everyone was chanting “Roll the dice of fate! Roll the dice of fate!” at increasingly higher volumes until, finally, they were rolled and the fate of the Dark Lord was determined to be eternity inside the glacier in which he had imprisoned High Master. The crowd cheered (even the Dark Hoarde) as I was taken into “custody”and we launched into a reprise of “High Master”, which we never got to finish because the crowd hoisted Chris on their shoulders and carried him, victorious, to the front lawn.
 
We spent the rest of the night reveling in back slapping congratulations from the crowd and a sense that we had made something that was just pure fun. What started out as an idiotic plot and some ridiculous songs ended up actually working and making people happy in the process. It probably wasn’t art. It certainly wasn’t polished theatre. But for the kids in that house, it was damned sure entertainment.
 
And, for us…it was downright magical.
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Pre-Flight

I wrote this as sort of a pre-flight checklist that I read before I meditate. For as long as I have been thinking about this stuff, I still find it extremely beneficial to leave myself a trail of breadcrumbs that I can follow when I forget my way back home. This list helps me remember the intentions that I want to set before I step out into the world every day and reminds me that I get to decide how my day is going to go. Maybe you’ll find it useful too.

  1. Problems don’t exist. There are only events and how you choose to feel about them. Seeing them as problems is a choice. Seeing them as non-problems is a choice. Make the choice that keeps you open and happy.
  1. Trying to get external reality to line up with your internal ideas about how things should go and how people should act is madness. Reality doesn’t care about you and your feelings about it. When something is bothering you, acknowledge it, feel the feelings, and then let go. Don’t let these irritations become blockages in your energy. When you feel your chest getting tight and your heart begin to close, relax and stay open. The irritation will pass through you and move on.
  1. Don’t give your attention to things over which you have no control (see #2). When you do this, you miss what is happening in the moment. Life is passing you by while you stew over all the things you can’t change. Stay focused on what life is presenting you with in the now.
  1. Be nobody. Remember that your personality is just a collection of stories. Everything you love, hate, agree, or disagree with is the ego trying to convince you that you are your thoughts and your beliefs. Let go of clinging to this idea of self. What you are is so much larger and more powerful than what the ego would have you believe. Drop the act and anything is possible.
  1. Want nothing. Focus on your needs, not on wants. The less you own, the less you want, the less you crave…the freer you will be. Travel light and be grateful you have a choice in the matter. Many don’t.
  1. Harm no being. Because we are all connected…violence against the “other” is violence against yourself. Physical, verbal, and emotional violence has never solved a single problem and never will. Begin with love and stick with it.
  1. Be mindful of what you let through the doors of your senses. We are showered with thousands of messages a day that are designed to make us feel a certain way. Limit your exposure to these messages and, when you are exposed, meet them with critical thinking and suspicion.
  1. Trust life. Things are unfolding just as they should. Don’t make fear based decisions that take you further away from happiness just because your ego thinks you should be stronger, faster, smarter, skinnier, or better than you are right now. The grass is never greener and that voice in your head is fake news.
  1. Stop complaining (thank you, Cianna) . It just reinforces your negative tape loops and it’s a sneaky form of escapism. Turn to face your pain instead and deal with it.
  1. There are dozens of opportunities for empathy and kindness that are presented to you every day. Not just when you’re feeling good, but in the midst of turmoil and anger as well. Whatever the circumstance, try to see the other person’s suffering and turn toward love.
  1. Everything comes back to clinging or aversion. Remember that. Don’t try to push away the things that you find unpleasant and don’t try to hold on to the things that you love. What you resist, persists and what you try to grasp will be lost. This is the nature of impermanence. The middle way is just to let things be as they are. No action is necessary on your part. Let the pendulum of your emotions come to rest and be still. Everything will be taken care of.
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