Voices

It’s about to win again – that voice we hear at the slight push, discomfort, uncertainty.

The voice can trick us to doubt our worth: It can debase us, engulf our will, and smother the slightest of possibilities. That stubborn voice sings curses, spools stories, negates all paths.

We’d rather resent ourselves: It’s easy to blame where we came from, our ‘lack’ of talent, problems we’re bequeathed, and the many random excuses our heads are very adept at making. We look unto others, casting insecurities. If we only have X and Y, then it’s a blast. We’ll be happier. 

But here’s the really happy news – we can pop that bubble. Because that voice, it turns out, is only a voice. 

We can grab our wands right away! Together, let’s point our wands to our temples, gather our unreasonable thoughts, summon the entity, and release it in a ‘Pensieve’. Should it whine, we lay it on a bedside while it munches. 

The voice is always going to be there (nodding at you, fear), but we have the will to be free from its leashes, and, instead, propel ourselves with the fear.

How?

It begins by making peace with ourselves and just experiment with an interest, a goal, a dream, a simple stretch. Should we free ourselves from too many rationalizations, everyday becomes a chance to firm that boundary between us and the enmity. 

There’s no muck to drag us down: It’s imaginary. There’s only one here, one today, asking us to move up and see the skies. There are no frustrations, only mountains.

We can be who we want to be while the voice screams “No, stay where you are!” It will pester, belittle, muffle and deter us.

But you know what’s great? It makes you think why.

Knock, knock!

Do words ever speak to you out of nowhere? Like they’re knocking on your cranium, asking you to summon them lest they vanish?

My mind has cast that spell several times in the bathroom – humid revelations I should say.

That day of switching between reading and writing had presented me bouts of words as if begging to pin them down to use. Some of these words I haven’t even used to have the muscle for recalling.

It was blackout for more than half the day. That ample of space for disconnection (should we choose it) could set up the stage for a candlelight, a travel to the times where a simple pleasure such as reading can be our warm companion. I was content with this world, hyperconnected even.

Going Less

I used to think that having more is going to make me happy someday. There was a destination in my head that I have to traverse and when I’ve grabbed all the shiny bits, when I feel brilliant and equipped, then I’m going to be content.

But then I was merely pacifying myself, waiting for life to hand me a pre-packaged deal of happiness. It was a dangerous wait. On the surface it felt okay but deep down it was wedging my soul.

Seeking for an answer, I found less.

Wanting less saved me. It taught me how to be breathe, slow down and become intentional. It’s been a slow process of seeing things afresh, understanding myself, finding my values, and honoring the life I want. It was freeing.

Lately I’ve been amused with a really simple thought: we just don’t need much.

Food, space, solitude, relationships, dreams – a potential recipe for a good, humble life. We curate our own empire, be intentional with our choices, and that’s it.

Still, we could be smudging the already perfect view by seeking more. Obvious adequacy doesn’t mean we’ll settle.

We want more and we want it now. Ubiquitous ads corner us to grab the latest shiny thing, our newsfeed prescribes an awesome place to feel grand, a new pacifier entices us to squander our days, people tell us to hustle here and there. Our sanity, stretched in a million directions.

The world demands us to chase and do more but often without the purest of intention. This ultimately leaves us distracted and discontented.

We sacrifice a lot – money, time, energy, health, and potential – but the excess doesn’t make us any better. We thought we’re gaining relevance by filling our lives with stuff and occupying our short lifetime with eternal ‘busyness’. But we’re only doing more to our own detriment, neither happy nor content, but lost and decaying inside.

What if life, right now, is pulling us back to less? Today, it urges us to pause, breathe, look at the rear-view, and to ask ourselves whether the superfluous is ever going to make us complete.

Maybe all we need right now is to stop the chasing. To hear that we can live, right at this moment, a meaningful life. That despite the world shouting otherwise, our kind voice says we’re enough.

Embracing the vital few can be simple. It can be difficult but worth it.

  1. Go outside. Perhaps it’s the morning radiance or the breeze that whispers to us yet another day to breathe, a chance to make the day count. It’s no wonder we go back to nature to realign our life. It’s cellular.
  2. Make your body your empire. While food entertains our palate, its primary role is to nourish us. By being mindful of the fact that we only have one body, and that if it genuinely matters to us, then we won’t wait forever to reclaim our health. We understand that if we invest now, if we embrace movement and eat with intention, we can ask more from ourselves later.
  3. Set a clean space. A humble space can spark us to be our most authentic selves. It’s when we’re left to our own devices that we light up and shine the most.
  4. Practice serenity. Quiet moments forge intimacy with our thoughts, giving us our much needed time to slow down and reflect. When we take the time to literally pause, it allows us to see the fine details of our lives, syncing our bodies to sync with our intentions. Also, solitude, even in short bursts, rekindles our curiosity and appreciation of the wonders around us.
  5. Forge deep connections. Studies reveal that all we ever need to live a long, fulfilling life is to cultivate meaningful relationships. Creating deep connections entails us to relinquish those that are toxic, and surround ourselves, instead, with kindred spirits who’s going to understand, celebrate and support us throughout.
  6. Mold yourself. We might have annoyed ourselves many times with the million-dollar question: what on earth are we here for? We might have an inkling of what we want to explore, maybe it’s in progress, or maybe we know it so well but we’re too afraid to do it. Whichever the case, working on a craft, a mission, requires vision and serious thinking. If we’re mad about reaching our potential – if we want our lives to matter – then we’ll have to make peace with our fears by just doing it anyway. By being patient with our craft each day, we’re doing ourselves and the world a huge favor.

We are, more than we realize, primed to live with purpose. Reclaiming our life begins by viscerally examining how we’re spending our lives. There are no finish lines – only a direction towards where we want to go.

A life of being more, once we’ve identified the small essentials, doesn’t need much.

There Must Be A Reason

Meaning, success. I know they sound grand.

But when I hear about “big” people, their stories, their tactics, their habits, all I can dissect is that it’s simple but not easy. They have a reason, primal and bigger than themselves. They want to matter.

From the surface it seems they have it all figured out – mended the creases, cruising with ease and triumph. We envy the results and sigh. It’s talent, we say.

But second glance that polished monolith and there you’ll see a simultaneous evocation of what once was crude and uncertain. Stare long enough within the furtive folds and what transpires is a humming of harmony and drudgery. In the midst of crafting, there’s dullness and excitement, blood and relief, uncertainty and revelation.

An artist molds a glass, forms gentle and jagged protrusions, sheds rough and grandiose skin. In its finality we revere the flawless. What we forget is the soul’s imperfect malleability. They all started somewhere but ended nowhere.

The bug in the artist’s gut is welcomed with curiosity. It started with a potential. Then a feast in isolation and frustration. Finally, it unveiled more than he expected. He was about to give up but found himself staying in the arena.

For what, exactly?

Meaning – we’re all wired for it. That’s why creativity begs to be manifested. Do you feel that urge to create – anything? Do you feel that void when you keep postponing? Are you holding back your child-like enthusiasm or your adult nerdy fascination? We all have that propensity for wonder. It claws on us in so many ways.

All it takes is that we slow down and create that space for what lights us up. To shun the excuses and just begin.

Now, when we find ourselves engaged in a craft, we grow a simple, big reason. Why do I labor for words? Why do I keep drawing? Why do I crunch data? Why do I keep tinkering? Why do I share my thoughts? Why do I keep singing my heart out?

That reason belongs to each one of us. It’s the spark that will propel us to get to know ourselves better and stretch our capacities. It’s the rudder that aligns our actions with our values. It’s what nudges us up in the morning. It’s what lends a hand when we’re in a slump. It’s what makes us come back frayed and curious again. That reason is our torch, our guidance.

Should we honor that reason, our ‘whys’ set the stage not for perfection but for possibilities.

 

Goals

I had a terrible penchant. It seems lustrous and promising, but it all ends there.

Reading through two-years worth of notebook, I realized I loved writing goals. I wrote them down with enthusiasm but rarely did I make them come to life.

Maybe writing them, for me, instilled a false sense of completion. It’s a foresight of things I wanted to flourish but ended with distractions. 

I longed to write a blog on August 2015, but I started the year after. I wanted to eat well and exercise regularly but it took me a year to establish the habit.

It isn’t to say that writing goals is useless. Rather, there’s a fine line between aspiring and actually doing. Trying is faint; doing is acute.

Goals are mere goals until we go beyond the list. Unfortunately, we won’t ignite the engine until we cultivate a ‘big why’ – a core direction.

Why does it really matter to you and your one life that you engage yourself in a specific goal?

Why does it count that I exercise and eat well?

How bad do I want to finish this degree?

Why does it even matter that I write what I think and feel?

The more compelling the question and your answer, the better.

So a few months ago, I got back to my list, detailed, curated them, and concentrated on a few.

I’m impatient and I tend to juggle things. So I did slow down, focused on one goal at a time. Single-tasking, indeed, is the holy grail.

To get going, I imposed deadlines, too. Without it, I know I’d go haywire again.

To this day I’m content to be writing weekly for my blog, eating mindfully, exercising, and sleeping well. Since putting a good foundation in place, I can move forward on the few things I want to get better at.

The thing is, goals are okay. Whys are critical. Doing is the game-changer.

Growing Taller

I’m no taller than 5 feet. First spurt of growth – and hope – was in 6th grade. I have a longer neck now. Maybe that counts as growth. I horizontally stretched in college. Then snapped back a year after graduation – my most slender yet. I’m 23, 4 feet, 11 inches. 

What’s taller, however, is not my stature. But how I feel. I let go most of my clutter (physical then mental) which helped me see what’s most important in my life. It didn’t happen overnight; it has  been a gradual purging of noise, of excess, of procrastination, of discontent.

I’m still running this marathon.

Struggling with resistance, our inner genius, is natural. It’s spooling stories in our heads, suppressing every inch of proclivity towards creation. It’s the raging voice in our heads telling us we cannot be more than we are now. 

But we can dance with this fearful voice. We can recognize it, tame it, and keep it at bay.

And there are no secrets.

We begin by just beginning. Turn down the noise, plant your butt, begin, and stay – stay for a while. Feel every bit of sensation in your rebellious body as discomfort diffuses in your nerve endings. Again, stay and feel the uncertainty. Notice the temptations, the old reflexes. Let it sink. 

But don’t listen to that voice.

For us to even scratch the surface of our goal is to not exit as fast we can, but to stay and enjoy the process, the simultaneous discomfort and power we gain. That’s how we resolve the conflict in our heads; that’s how we honor the calling in our hearts. 

It takes one step and staying with the uncertainty every single time – dipping, wondering, and growing with this voice. We don’t have to kill it; it’s our nature. But we can set that voice aside – probably in a bean bag beside us – while we create the work we’re meant to be doing. It can be a calm struggle this way. 

Growing taller means trimming the excess in our lives, making space for freedom.

Do One Thing

Do nothing – I followed Markus Almond’s advice. Except that a pen and a blank paper embraced the solace with me.

The ink as it first touches the inviting white space was revealing. It is thought coming to life. The fluidity of our hands and minds working in confluence – laser-beam focused on a single task of putting every stroke, letter, word, then thoughts – was just amusing.

Most days are usually mundane, mechanical even. Our bodies are built for habits, automatically making us get up, eat, work and snooze. Perhaps we have chips inside us designed to keep doing essentially a variation of the same things. Unwrapping novelty, excitement, and discovery requires an intentional muscle.

However, at this moment, catching myself feel, curiously prying into my consciousness, taking it apart, I felt I’ve put a finger on something tangible and freeing –  my breath, the coldness, the idle bright screen, the windows brightly lit, my sweaty palms, the solidity of the table against my pulse.

Immersing one’s self into the fine details of a plain event has stretched the time table, if only for a short burst of moment.

The moment, indeed, doesn’t have to be special. It can as simple as sitting still.

But being curious about it, taking the time to slow down, to do one thing, or do nothing at all, is what will spear us back to calm and eventually, to clarity.

There are no deadlines or any a sense of urgency that could rob me of the present moment.

It’s only me sitting, dissecting  the sensation, simultaneously wondering and grateful.

What doing nothing meant for me was indulging on the cellularity of one action.