The Zen Warrior Solution to ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is currently one of the most overdiagnosed conditions around the world and especially here in the United States. This is widely accepted as a fact by many experts in the field of psychology. In 2011, the CDC reported that 11% of children aged four to seventeen were reported as having been diagnosed with ADHD, a 35% increase in only eight years. There is no doubt that the condition that we know as ADHD exists on a spectrum and that medication can certainly be justified in some extreme circumstances. But there is also no doubt that subjective, biased and incomplete evaluations by clinicians and parents has led to a lot of children being unnecessarily medicated.

This might be not be a big deal if it wasn’t for the fact that commonly prescribed drugs such as Adderall can be detrimental over the course of prolonged use. Adderall, an amphetamine, is addictive and has the potential to cause some pretty serious side effects, including but not limited to heart palpitations, hallucinations, tremors, high blood pressure and drastic mood shifts. It’s the type of drug that should be used with caution and only when it’s absolutely critical for one’s well-being. And while Adderall may seem like the perfect tool to focus, it also serves as a crutch, inhibiting the user from learning the skills to focus without it. A child growing up with Adderall will likely be totally dependent on it as an adult.

The Zen Warrior learns to work with the complexities of the mind by separating the experiencer from the experience. In other words, we notice thoughts and feelings as they come and go without attaching ourselves to them. We see that the thoughts and feelings are not who we are, but, rather, what we are experiencing in that moment. By learning to differentiate between our thoughts and feelings and our presence, we exercise impulse control. Thoughts are just uncontrolled impulses, some of which are useful and some which aren’t. Being present is a learned skill which involves a dedicated practice of harnessing one’s attention. One must learn to see when the mind is wandering to and from the past and the future and focus it in the reality of the moment. Most people who would never be diagnosed with ADHD still have a very hard time with being present. The mind is constantly going from one thing to the next; from what you had for breakfast this morning, to the meeting that you’re not looking forward to, to the weird thing that person just said to you, to how you’re going to manage to pick up the kids from soccer practice and still be home in time to cook dinner. People with ADHD simply display this type of mental behavior in a more obvious and sometimes detrimental manner than the rest of us.

I practice mindful communication with a group of about thirty people on a regular basis. We spend eight hours a day once a month working on delivering clear, authentic communication to each other while staying connected to ourselves in the present moment. Many of us also practice this same skill for several hours each month in small groups. We actively observe the flow of communication while attempting to be completely ready to take action and speak when our input is appropriate or needed. This is not an easy task. The mind wants to wander when it’s bored and it wants to react when it’s triggered. It wants to judge yourself and others for things that have been said or not said. It wants to remember the thing that it had to say and blurt it out when it’s no longer relevant. It wants to either control the situation or leave the room. It is truly a discipline to simply be with yourself for a long period of time while being truly present and engaged with a group of thirty other minds. Through this practice, I have learned that it is clear intention that makes the biggest difference when it comes to focusing on the present. Intention is the direction that we choose to give our minds. Strong intention can only be accessed deliberately through connecting deeply with what one desires in life. Intention gives context to the present moment that the present moment doesn’t have without it. What am I going for in my life right now? What do I need to do right now in order to build my life in the direction of my choosing? With this disciplined attention, every moment begins to have context that we have created for it and the mind can more actively focus on the present because it’s focused on what matters to us.

By teaching both children and adults with ADHD mindfulness practices and the power of intention setting, they can begin to discover the peace and quiet that resides within them when they are not at the whim of every direction the mind wants to take them. They can begin to see that it is up to them to create meaningful context out of what is occurring in the present moment that will support them in living the lives that they truly desire. Without intention, the mind has no direction and will roam around endlessly.

It must be emphasized that focus is a learned skill that takes years to develop. The unconscious mind is a powerful force for anyone, no matter whether one has ADHD or not. Thoughts and distractions are constantly ready to direct our attention away from what’s important. For those with ADHD, this can be debilitating. But there is a solution. The Zen Warrior Training solution is to discipline one’s brain to incrementally learn how to gain control of its faculties so that it can be the servant of our true desires rather than the obstacle.

 

From Whole to Broken to Whole: Rediscovering Personal Power

One fateful night in 1999, my sense of wholeness was gone in a split second. Just a moment before, I was having the time of my life. At the age of twenty-four, I was a cycling tour leader and had just finished leading a 3,800 mile journey across the United States. An avid snowboarder and skier, I had plans to spend the month of January living out of my car at a ski resort in Vermont. I hiked the mountains of Western Massachusetts on a regular basis. I played guitar with my best friends in a college funk band. I went to a dojo and studied the fluid art of aikido three times per week. There was a complete alignment between my mind, body and spirit. My days were filled with classes at a college I loved, laughter with friends and regular outdoor adventures. Life was a blast.

A trip out to a bar to celebrate a friend’s birthday put an end to the party instantly.

Our trip stopped short of our destination when the driver hit a tree at about fifty miles per hour. My T12 vertebra exploded on impact, damaging my spinal cord and leaving me completely paralyzed from my waist down.

A spinal cord injury is unlike most other injuries in that it doesn’t heal. Any other bone in the body can be broken, and within a few weeks or months, you should be good to go. Break the spine and it’s a life sentence of paralysis.

I spent forty-five minutes slumped in the backseat of the car desperately trying not to move even the slightest amount for fear of further damage to my spinal cord. I pleaded with God to set the clock back so that I could make a different decision while going nearly mad considering the implications this event would have on my life.

In that moment, my sense of wholeness was replaced by a sense of brokenness. My spirit was determined to not give up, but my sense of identity was crushed in ways that felt unrecoverable. I complained as little as possible and took on this new life with a stoic and resilient attitude. But beneath the surface the wounds went deep, both figuratively and literally. Cumulatively, I spent more than two years of the the next fourteen lying flat on my back in hospital beds due to complicated surgeries from pressure ulcers. I spent an additional year lying down at home and unable to leave my bed. I became dependent on my family in ways that I could never have imagined.

The only thing that kept me sane was turning my attention inward, finding a sense of peace that wasn’t dependent on my life looking any particular way. It was here that I found the eye of the hurricane. I couldn’t control my circumstances, but I could control the way that I responded to them by living from this spacious place within.

As I practiced meditating my way through the months of complete motionlessness, I began to see that my predicament was simply an exaggerated form of the same basic theme that many people around me were experiencing. When I was confined to a hospital bed, I talked to doctors and nurses and got the distinct impression that they were all waiting on some time in the future when things would be better. These hopes and dreams remained perpetually unreachable. I may have been the one stuck in bed and unable to move, but it was clear that I was actually far less paralyzed than a lot of the people who weren’t. On a daily basis, I saw people who were creating their own prisons around themselves, held hostage by their own uncontrolled thoughts and feelings. Here I was the patient, and yet, ironically, I felt more free than the majority of the people who weren’t.

For many years, I had my own unmet goal, the goal to once again become able-bodied. I worked diligently with a movement specialist who had had some success in helping people with paralysis to recover lost function. I set my sights on recovery and was warned to not be complacent, lest my body atrophy beyond repair. It was a lofty goal since, as far as I knew, no one diagnosed with complete paralysis had ever recovered any movement or sensation. It took me over ten years to acknowledge that, on some level, I was embarrassed to be paraplegic. I had convinced myself to not fully engage in the world. I had created my own prison cell. As this came to my attention, I committed myself to a deeper level of self-knowing, recognizing the fact that true freedom could only come from embracing my circumstances exactly as they were.

As my energy became stronger, people who were struggling with their own prisons sought refuge in me since I had conquered such seemingly impossible obstacles. I had inadvertently become a specialist in tackling challenges not through stubbornness or stoicism but through yielding to whatever the present moment brought, by finding my inner Zen Warrior. By creating harmony around my circumstances, I had access to the vital energy needed to manage my situation and to live from a purposeful state of mind.

This sense of wholeness is not abstract or conceptual, but truly tangible. It is learning to sense that life is perfect in its imperfection. It takes a commitment to experiencing life as an adventure. Enlightenment is not a state of nirvana, but a discovery that we have the power to choose how we experience our circumstances.

The road to wholeness is unique for every individual, but the principles are always the same. Rigid attachments to one’s ego must be acknowledged and then allowed to dissolve. One must learn to trust his or her higher self and see that what seems like unbearable pressure is exactly what’s needed to transform and, thus, be able to serve the greater good. Around the world, people are waking up to these principles, and, by doing so, taking charge of their destinies in previously unimaginable ways. While the victim cries foul to what they perceive as the malevolent intentions of others or of the universe, the Zen Warrior looks for the opportunity for self-actualization that they know is embedded within the challenge.

 

Beware of the Should Police

I woke up this morning with a persistent thought that I should be doing something that I wasn’t doing. It was aggravating and draining. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. I felt myself absorbed in a cloud of low-level shame and lethargy, and over what I didn’t know.

Then it dawned on me. It was the Should Police. The Should Police are the voices inside my head that insist that I’m not living up to my full potential. They are the inner critics who are constantly condemning the growth work that I’ve done so much of because I’m not living in a state of perpetual inspiration and empowerment. They quickly judge the fact that there is so much work yet to be done without allowing me to appreciate how far I’ve already come and the degree of commitment that I have to my life.

They tell me that I should be more grateful.

They tell me that I should be farther along the path.

They tell me that I should be more focused.

They tell me that I should be more responsible.

They tell me that I should take better care of myself.

I notice the Should Police in the minds of the clients I work with every day. It’s so easy to pick up from the outside. I remind them that what they think they should do is actually just an illusory and disempowering thought, a mental construct based on the mind’s comparison to some picture of the ideal self that the ego has fabricated. It is the opposite of authentic inspiration.

But despite the fact that I remind my own clients about the Should Police so often, I am still subject to the same experience. These thoughts are insidious and difficult to detect when we are in the midst of having them. Once I become aware of what is actually happening, I can take steps to get out of it, but not before.

The path of the Zen Warrior involves training the mind to be in a state of non-judgment; in other words, developing the clarity and presence to simply observe things as they are and to not get entangled in the web of obfuscation and drama that the mind is so easily capable of.

When I stop thinking that I should be more grateful, I instantly feel gratitude for my life.

When I stop thinking that I should be farther along the path, I instantly see that I’m exactly where I need to be, and that the path has no beginning and no end.

When I stop thinking that I should be more focused, my mind begins to focus on what’s needed.

Beware of the should police.

Isla Vista – Rethinking the Unthinkable

The recent Isla Vista shooting has thrown our country back into a very familiar pattern. After the initial shock and remorse felt across the nation, we quickly moved straight into politicizing the event. These types of shootings are now so commonplace that people practically jump to their political arguments before even having a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives and their families.

Liberals immediately renew their argument for gun control. Conservatives insist that the right to bear whatever types of arms they desire outweighs the loss of lives. Some paranoid libertarians even insist that these shootings are staged by the government in order to take our guns away.

Some focus on the structure of our mental health system and argue that we need to do more to give unstable people the help they need, in the hopes of forestalling such heinous acts of violence. Still others claim that this particular shooting was due to a culture which promotes misogyny. It is clear that Elliot Rodger did, indeed, exhibit a toxic combination of both mental illness and a misogynistic attitude.

But while many of these emotional policy arguments can be justified from their respective angles, they fail to address a key underlying issue that can’t be solved by any lawmaker or law. With a tragedy this severe, sometimes a little time needs to pass before we can look at the situation from a less emotional and more objective angle and see the obvious — a problem which is far more difficult to uproot: America has a major fear of death.

Now, before you judge me for being harsh or inconsiderate, please hear me out. I feel pain as much as anyone. In November 1999, I was the victim of a car crash caused by a drunk driver that left me permanently paralyzed from the waist down. On top of that, complications from my injury have required me to be completely immobilized in hospital beds at times, at one point for the better part of a year. While this is obviously not the same as being killed in a shooting or being a family member of one of the victims, I do have a lot of experience with suffering, and my heart gets crushed every time another shooting happens. No one should have to endure that type of suffering.

When tragedies like the one in Isla Vista happen, rather than digesting the extreme pain that comes with losing innocent lives, we tend to immediately project that discomfort onto the people who don’t think like us. They are to blame, not us. It’s the conservatives. No, it’s the liberals. And every time another mass shooting happens, we become a little more desensitized to it, because we never actually accept the fact that we are all partly responsible. We are responsible because we have created a jaded ethos around the whole idea of death. People frequently ask why this particular type of gun violence is so common in America, but not elsewhere. What we fail to realize is that we are tacitly contributing to the problem through our collective panic.

We as a culture are so uncomfortable with death, especially with the idea of innocent people close to us dying “too soon,” that we create the conditions that fuel more mass shootings. We are obsessed with the idea that death is an end, that death is eternal darkness, that death is painful and to be avoided at all costs, that death is the great void. We cling to the belief that no person should have to succumb to it before they’ve had the opportunity to live for as long as their bodies can sustain them.

For most of us, this subtle paranoia lingers in imperceptible ways in our day-to-day lives. But when you add up the sum total of the fear of death in our society, it creates a very powerful force in the collective conscience guiding our behaviors.

Our terror of death gives those who are mentally unstable and wish to take revenge against others a powerful incentive to do so. Elliot Rodger wanted nothing more than to finally be seen as an alpha male before taking his own life, and he couldn’t think of a better way to do so than to exploit our fears by acting out what most people would consider unconscionable.

So how do we neutralize this fear? After my spinal cord injury, I turned to Zen philosophy and meditation as a way of coping with my own challenges and my brush with death. Through years of practice, I was able to shed the suffering that I was experiencing and see myself not through the lens of my victimhood, but simply as someone who is awake in the present moment. The notion of “Why me?” gave way to “Why not me?” With enough practice of Zen meditation, I even began to feel gratitude for the challenges I had faced. Gratitude for no longer being able to walk; no longer able to feel my bowels and bladder; no longer able to have normal sexual intercourse. Would I like to have those things back? Of course! But working with their absence has given me a gateway into a type of awareness that was previously unavailable to me because I had to look my fears and suffering straight in the eye and deal with them. This process has been so life-affirming to me that I started a mentoring business called Zen Warrior Training™, where I work with my clients to help them to develop the skills and awareness needed to master themselves.

Speaking to an audience in Ojai, California in August of 1955, spiritual writer and philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti helped raise one possibility of how to deal with the subject of death.

“If you know death already, then there is nothing to be frightened of. But do you know death? That is, can you while living put an end to this everlasting struggle to find in the impermanent something that will continue? Can you know the unknowable, that which we call death, while living? Can you put aside all the descriptions in books, or which your unconscious desire for comfort dictates and taste or experience that state, which must be extraordinary, now? If that state can be experienced now, then living and dying are the same… It is only when the mind ceases to think in terms of its own continuity that the unknowable comes into being.”

Krishnamurti proposes a solution to the problem of our fear of death that one doesn’t typically hear – knowing death while still living. He is not the only philosopher or spiritual teacher who has spoken of such things. The Buddha taught that what we experience as our “self” is merely an illusion, and that we are, in fact, dying in every moment, only to be reborn over and over in a similar illusion. To grasp this illusion – not conceptually, but experientially – he said, was the key to true freedom, and the cessation of suffering. If we accept this view as being legitimate, it certainly does not alleviate the pain caused by innocent people being murdered. But what it can do is give us some insight into the root of the problem and how to deal with it, which is fundamentally a personal issue, not a political one.

We all wish that we could have our perspectives heard by those in power and that they would carve out laws which would keep us from further harm. When our voices go unheard, it only increases the feelings of anger and powerlessness, no matter what side of the aisle you are on. Unfortunately, that is exactly what contributes to more violence. It is exactly what gives people like Elliot Rodger, who himself felt powerless, delusions of power.

The fear of death is so ingrained into our individual minds and collective conscience that we should expect to see mentally unstable people continue to prey on those fears in the future. But if we as individuals can look at how our fears are contributing to the problem and take steps to neutralize those fears, then perhaps we will take away much of the motivation to kill.

The “Other Half” Must Die

It is time for the term “other half” to die.

He or she will never be your other half.

Stop it. Now.

People are suffering from the illusion of what it means to be married or in a committed relationship. Our culture has laid it on thick for a long time. Every romantic movie, song, religion and family has an idea of what relationships should look like. It is almost impossible to question what’s real and what’s not when entire institutions have been created around relationships serving certain functions. There is one thing that all these different dogmas have in common, and that is that your partner is your “other half.”

They’re not.

We buy into because it sounds so appealing. Wow… someone who will take care of my needs, who will come for me when I call. And we do our absolute best to be that person to the other, stoically ignoring our own needs in order to serve the greater good. We suppress the resentment that comes from the feeling of a life half-lived because we know that we are doing the “responsible” thing. Soon, we start to serve a mostly utilitarian function to each other. Make food for them. Listen to them vent about their day. Fold their laundry. Suck it up for the good of the relationship.

This is not to say that we should eschew responsibility. Quite the opposite. Our primary responsibility is to ourselves, not to the other. Then, and only then, our we responsible enough to be in a committed partnership with someone in a healthy manner. Ironically, it is only through not seeing our partner as our other half and instead seeing ourselves as two completely autonomous individuals who choose to be together that we have any chance of functioning as a cohesive whole.

Initially, this realization can bring up fear for people. “Well, if they don’t need me to feel whole, then doesn’t that mean that they could go away at any time?” Yes, it does. But the alternative is to destroy the polarity in the relationship by feeling that you need (or are destined) to be together.

“Well, won’t they potentially cheat on me if they don’t feel like they need to be with me?” That’s certainly a possibility. But cheating or having an affair is usually the byproduct of relationships which lost their polarity long ago, not healthy ones where each person acknowledges and respects their partner’s independence. In the former, one person acts outside of integrity out of frustration that their partner no longer feels like a good other half; in the latter, they simply move on if and when the love is no longer present in the relationship.

Humans are social creatures, and, as such, we rely on others for our sense of security and purpose in the world. We need to be very cognizant of the implications that has on the quality of our relationships. Most people rely almost exclusively on their partner to fill a supportive role that really needs to be distributed among a much larger group of friends, acquaintances, mentors and coworkers. That means that we need to look closely at what type of support we actually require and seek out people who have the capacity and desire to fill those needs.

Our energetic systems are biological batteries, requiring daily recharge in order to maintain optimum function and clarity. Try as we might, we cannot use someone else’s battery to charge our own. We must find the source of our own vitality and tap into it each and every day.

Love cannot be found in another person. It never could be, and never will be. Those of us who are fortunate enough to know true love know that we can only create love for our own lives through gratitude and a sense of abundance and then share that love with another. When we feel that we are not getting the love we need, we need to look no further than the mirror to find the problem. Acknowledging this truth can be painful, but the pain is simply the byproduct of fear of our aloneness. That fear is an illusion, and needs to be conquered. We are never alone. We never will be.

Our “other half” is the part of ourselves we reclaim by conquering the fear.

2014 – Setting Yourself Up For Success.

Welcome to 2014, everyone!  On this first day of the new year, I have some thoughts to share about setting yourself up for success for 2014.  As I’ve read the latest posts on Facebook and talked with people in person, I can’t help but notice how frequently the tone for this New Year is exactly the same as New Years in the past.  Things like, “I am so glad 2013 is over.  Let’s hope 2014 is a WAY better year!” are pretty common.  Well, here’s the thing.  If that’s how you feel, then there is pretty much a 0% chance that 2014 will be any better than 2013 was.  In fact, it will likely be worse, because you are clearly in a pattern of feeling like life is something that happens to you, and that pattern is a self-fulfilling prophecy that creates a downward spiral.  There is absolutely zero difference in any given year from an objective standpoint.  This morning, you woke up and the sun rose in exactly the same fashion that it did yesterday and the day before.  The world outside of your mind has absolutely no idea that anything different has happened.  Wouldn’t it be great if something actually saw our posts on Facebook and said, “Oh wow… Yeah, I forgot all about so and so in 2013.  I’m gonna make sure 2014 is WAY better for them!”  Sorry, but it doesn’t happen like that, and it never will, not next year, and not the year after.

The good news is that actually means that the power to make 2014 a great year is in your own hands.  It starts by taking a good, solid look at everything you are already doing well.  Even if it doesn’t seem like a lot, you are likely doing a lot more things well than you think you are.  Take some time to do a personal inventory of things that you are proud of, challenges that you have overcome, etc.  If it feels best to write them down, do so.  And don’t stop with doing it once.  Remind yourself as frequently as possible what you are already doing well.  By doing this, you are creating fertile soil for your new intentions and goals in this new year.  If, in your mind, you come from a place of abundance, you will undoubtebly attract more abundance in your life.  Aligning yourself with a humble sense of pride and pleasure is powerful conditioning, and these “muscles” need to be worked often or they atrophy.

As humans, every single one of us has areas where we are functional and areas where we are not so functional.  Most of us try to avoid dealing with the areas where we are not so functional.  We react defensively when someone shows us our blind spots.  We avoid taking on certain jobs or tasks because they are something we don’t feel good at or because they drag us down.  This is something that everyone, to some degree or another, does.  But these areas of dysfunction are where the good stuff is.  If we stay within our comfort zones, life is not very rewarding, but if we willingly take on new challenges, we are constantly rewarded with new feelings of accomplishment.  And the more we make conscious choices to take on new challenges, the less we feel challenged by the outside world, because guess what?  There is no outside world.

Now this doesn’t mean that you should go and try to whip yourself into shape in ways that you never have before.  As I’m sure most of you know, new gym memberships are at their peak at the start of every new year, and within two or three weeks, only a small portion of the new members are still going.  This is because our tendency is to react to our dysfunctions rather than to respond to them.  A reaction is emotional and involves going overboard with our expectations of ourselves and coming from a place of “needing to change.”  Actions based in emotions always die out eventually.  A response, on the other hand, can be neutral and realistic.  You can give yourself a pat on the back for everything you’re doing well, excuse your dysfunctions and not allow yourself to feel guilty.  Then you can make a pragmatic goal to set yourself up for success.  Maybe you don’t need the gym membership.  Maybe you just need to take a 15-minute walk every morning.  Maybe you don’t need to take a vacation to the Bahamas with your family.  Maybe you just need to carve out a couple hours each week to focus your energy on your family.  Realistic, doable goals are the key to success.

Don’t worry about making 2014 better than any other year.  If you consistently remind yourself how much you’re already doing well and give yourself new, short-term, attainable goals on an ongoing basis, it will be.

Jaden and Willow Smith Drop Some Zen

“No one knows what the fuck was going on in that interview,” says Vice Magazine. “A game of bullshit tennis,” says the Guardian. “Zen gibberish,” says Vulture Magazine. The recent interview with Jaden and Willow Smith in T Magazine has been getting a lot of attention over the past couple of days. A brief look at the comments section indicates that readers are pretty much equally divided between admiration and utter disdain for the children of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith based on their unconventional responses to the questions recently posed to them.

Each of the aforementioned articles have disappointed me with their sloppy and superficial analysis of these two kids. Jaden and Willow are the easiest types of targets – privileged children of megastars. While some of their answers are unmistakably arrogant and even delusional (Jaden goes so far as to say their musical collaboration changed the world and made people more honest), focussing on that aspect of their characters detracts from the content of what they are sharing. There’s some really good stuff here that warrants a second reading.

Having practiced meditation regularly for the past twenty-three years has given me insight into the world that Jaden and Willow are pointing to. To understand their language, one has to first experience one’s self as the witness of thoughts, rather than as the thinker. This awareness is quite unusual, so it is no surprise that they are catching a lot of flack from people who think they’re just making up bullshit. To what degree Jaden and Willow actually live in this awareness only they can know, but they certainly know something about it, even if it’s mostly from the Osho and quantum physics books they’ve read. When Willow responds with the now famous line, “because living,” when they are discussing the relativity of time, she is actually saying something quite profound – that trying to construct a conceptual framework around the nature of time will always be a futile endeavor because it takes the person having the experience of time out of the experience itself.

When Jaden says, “That’s another thing: What’s your job? What’s your career? Nah, I am,” that can be interpreted as follows – being human is gloriously and infinitely bigger than words can describe, and by using language to create an image of what we do as an occupation, we have thoughts and judgments about ourselves and others which creates a fragmented notion of each other, distancing ourselves from seeing each other as whole and unique beings. Jaden’s musings on duality take a bit of a stretch when he starts talking about how the thought of an apple creates the thought of the opposite of an apple, but the core (no pun intended) of what he’s saying is true – thoughts of one thing tend to create an opposing thought – light and dark, good and bad, etc, which, ultimately, are measurements based on imagined criteria (i.e. where on the spectrum between “good” and “bad” does good become bad, and who is the awareness that determines that?)

They describe “prana,” the Sanskrit word for “life force” as the type of energy a baby has before they are conditioned by the world, and that the child’s prana diminishes as they grow older. Prana exists everywhere and can’t diminish, but a child will certainly develop physical, mental and emotional blocks with time which disrupt the natural flow of prana throughout their bodies.

There is not a whole lot else in this interview that is all that profound. Are these kids infatuated with themselves? Absolutely. But so are a lot of kids their age. All in all, they seem pretty well-balanced and bright. Can’t wait to hear them talk religion with Suri Cruise in a few years.

I’m Over Getting Older.

I’m over getting older.  I’m not just saying that.  I mean it quite literally.  I am over getting older.  At the age of thirty-eight, I have far more vitality than I did ten years ago.  In fact, I’m getting younger by the day.  Just yesterday, I danced and moved my body more vigorously than I ever have for several hours straight.  When it was over, I was flooded with energy, far more than the amount of energy I started with.  That never used to happen to me.  Of course, linear time continues to occur outside of my control, and each moment that passes is one moment closer to my physical death, but other than that, my aging process has reversed itself.  This is not genetics.  And it’s certainly not because I have an exceptional body.  If anything, as a paraplegic, not having the use of the lower half of my body puts me at a distinct disadvantage in terms of aging.  It is a result of my evolving attitude towards my aging.  I now understand that each and every passing moment creates an opportunity to either lose vitality or gain vitality.  It’s all a matter of choice.

My body will immediately respond to whatever I tell it, whether I’m aware of the communication or not.  When I feel myself starting to drag, I often find myself thinking, “I don’t have time to do anything about this,” or “there’s nothing I can do about my energy dragging,” without even realizing I’m thinking these thoughts.  But my body knows I’ve sent those messages to it, and it responds accordingly, with even less energy.  If you feel yourself getting older, I can guarantee you that you have the same thoughts, and you have them frequently.  My anti-aging process has involved gradually learning how to bring my awareness to how my mind and body are communicating.  I don’t always catch myself when I start dragging or spacing out, but I’m way better at doing so than I used to be.  Once I notice it, there is always something that needs to be done.  I check in with myself to see how aware of my breathing I am, whether I’m hungry, dehydrated, fixated on something, or if I need some sunshine, movement, etc.  There are a thousand ways I can increase my energy, but only one way I can decrease it, which is to do nothing at all.

I’m sure in the next decade or so, we’ll see sophisticated little gadgets that monitor our bodies and make text messages pop up on our iPhone 15s, telling us when we need to drink water, shake our hips, breathe more fully or take in some sunlight, and more people will start experiencing more vitality as a result.  But for now, all that information is inside you.  Once I hit thirty-eight, I decided I was good on this whole aging thing.  I’m taking it upon myself to get younger from now on.  I invite you to do the same.

Hell and Its Entrepreneurial Potential

Henry David Thoreau, were he alive today, would be holed up inside his little cabin at Walden Pond, pulling his wool blankets over his head in a desperate attempt to shut out the world.  Rather than writing one of the greatest books in the history of American literature, he instead would’ve used his quill pen to write “LEAVE ME ALONE” in large, capital letters and nailed the note to his door.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, Walt Whitman, upon discovering Yosemite, would likely have walked off the edge of Half Dome were it 2014 rather than 1868.

The times in which we live are more dire than any 19th Century transcendentalist could ever have imagined.  Over the next 150 or so years, the world’s population growth would expand to approximately seven times the size it was during that era.  The distribution of wealth would become somewhat reasonable for a very short period of time a hundred or so years later, only to then become totally outrageous after that period was up.  Large corporations would go from being influential on politicians to creating their own political system.  And the natural environment, which these authors revered as the ultimate expression of creation itself, would be in deep shit.

For those of us who have experienced the serene and potent energy that is always present in the parts of the world that don’t get regularly trampled by humans, we can probably relate to their anxiety.  When I juxtapose the feeling I remember from canoeing on a pond in Maine growing up against the feeling I have when I sit in bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic in LA, sucking the fumes from a zillion tailpipes, I can’t help but wonder how we are going to get ourselves out of this mess.  But the fact remains that the world will go on, and despite the inevitable ecological disasters that will wipe some of us out, so will we.

It could be said that we, as a culture, are going through a kind of collective hell.  However, it is my experience that hell is largely in the eye of the beholder.  There is the challenge of adapting to an unknown world (living in LA, I wonder every day whether I will be hearing news that I have to immediately evacuate due to Fukushima), and there is what we choose to do with that challenge.  The real hell comes not from the situation itself, but our reaction to the situation.  When feelings come up that we have never had before, the natural reaction most of us have is to go into a fight or flight mode.  We either deny what we are feeling, or we fight the feeling.  It takes a lot of skill and practice to be able to let the feeling move through us without denying it or reacting to it.  The real hell is when we get paralyzed from our own feelings, whether it be from the state of the world, the state of our job, the state of our relationships or anything.  Anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue and a host of other symptoms can result from the inability to process feelings.  And when people around us have the same problems, it can easily become the new “normal.”

The task at hand is to learn how to surrender to previously unknown pressures.  Every time something is birthed in nature, it happens as the result of extreme pressure.  When you stuck your little head out of the birth canal as a newborn infant, it was only after experiencing an immense amount of pressure.  Human behavior seems to operate in a very similar fashion.  Learning to trust nature means learning to trust the evolution of humankind, because while it seems cut off from nature, it actually isn’t.  Nothing can be cut off from nature.  Is it frustrating?  Sure.  Is it depressing?  Certainly can be.  But it is still nature.  Real trust, the kind that comes with actual awareness and not just blind faith, is a skill that takes ongoing practice.

Now, here’s the good news.  As people develop the skills to be able to function effectively within the confines of this new pressure, they naturally begin to see opportunities which were previously unavailable.  The definition of an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes, operates and assumes the risk for a business venture.”  I would add to that definition that a smart entrepreneur is one who also sees a need that is not currently being met and seizes the opportunity to fill that void.  We are currently living in a time of manufactured necessity.  In other words, new products and services are being created every day which don’t actually make our lives any better at all.  Clever marketing might make us think we need some of this crap, but we don’t.  A perfect storm is happening – a swirling combination of ecological disasters, income inequality, social inequality and global information sharing that is creating exactly the type of pressure that is needed for a new awareness to emerge, and with it, new goods and services which are absolutely necessary and aligned with creating meaningful change.

Those who have not felt the intense pressure of the present moment, who are either oblivious to it or too numb to feel it, will be the followers in the future.  Those who have surrendered to the pressure, maintained their trust in humanity, and honestly wish to help others will be the new leaders.

Attitude is Everything – Examining a Cliché

Attitude is everything.  We’ve all heard it a thousand times.  In the midst of extraordinary challenges, I have found this phrase to be nauseating.  Over the years, some people (I kid you not) have said to me, “Everything happens for a reason.  Have you found the reason why you became a paraplegic?”  In the interest of appearing to be a mature adult, I have shrugged these comments off rather than responding the way any reasonable person would, such as, “If you get shot in a drive-by and paralyzed on your way home, can I stop by the hospital and ask you the same question?”

But it is true.  Attitude is indeed everything.  There is no escaping that fact.  It is both the art and the science of being a human being.  Look at any situation in your life, past or present.  Every single thing that has ever happened to you has been 100% dependent upon your perception of it.  And how you perceive something forms your attitude towards it.  That doesn’t mean that things don’t get created by outside circumstances and affect you.  But the moment something happens to you is the same moment that you begin shaping your attitude toward it.  Does that mean we should automatically adopt positive attitudes around challenging situations?  Absolutely not.  That is the essence of denial.  We owe it to ourselves to experience the full range of feelings that accompany any challenge.  Otherwise, we don’t actually grow.  We never become bigger than the challenge that way.  You can’t have a genuinely positive attitude about something when you are, in fact, just covering up your feelings.  I literally spent years of my life following my spinal cord injury putting a smile on my face and acting stoic, almost like nothing had really happened.  It was the best I could do at the time, but by adopting that attitude, I was denying myself the opportunity to feel everything there was for me to feel.  Deep in my unconscious mind, I was terrified of what had happened to me – terrified of what the future held.  But as I slowly learned to create a safe space for my awareness – genuine courage, as opposed to denial – I was able to feel more.  Once I actually felt what was there for me to feel, the feelings moved through rather efficiently.

Coincidentally, as I am writing this post, I just looked at my Yogi Tea bag, and written on it are the words, “An attitude of gratitude brings opportunities.”  I can’t argue with that.  But an attitude of gratitude is easier said than done for most of us.  Having a good attitude about the parts of one’s life that are not challenging is pretty easy.  But having a good attitude when we are struggling to deal with life’s challenges is a whole other thing.  If your house gets foreclosed on or your spouse leaves you or you develop a terminal illness, reading the words, “an attitude of gratitude brings opportunities” is likely to make you want to throw your tea cup through a window.  If they had a little more room on the tea bag, or if they were trying to be honest rather than trite, what they might’ve said is something like, “An attitude of gratitude brings opportunities, but in order to eventually adopt this type of attitude, you must first practice being at peace with whatever state your mind is already in.”

And yes, I do feel that my injury happened for a reason.  It happened because there was an opening in my life for a particular type of growth at that time and place.  But finding that reason has been a personal journey that has taken me years to discover, and the process of unearthing the reason will take the rest of my life.  That being said, I reserve the right to answer, “go screw yourself” to anyone who wants to know.  Because attitude is everything.