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  • A Theory Concerning Experts

    Expert = Having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience. (Merriam-Webster) An expert is usually someone who is seen as an authority, such as a tutor, a doctor, a teacher, a master, a sage, an instructor, a guru, a coach, or a trainer. For this article I am not referring to "experts" such as the ones who can tell you all about the Scottish Wars of Independence or the ones who can explain the Bear and Bull markets. I am talking about the ones that we look to for guidance or advice concerning our physical, mental, or spiritual condition. The everyday issues of life that we all face. Betty's Journey I would personally consider my significant other, Betty, an expert although she is not technically classified by any of the titles mentioned above, nor does she desire to be. But by definition she has a "particular knowledge derived from experience". It was a 6 year journey for her, but in that time Betty lost over 140 pounds and has kept it off for an additional 6 years and counting! I'd say that pretty much makes her a weight loss expert. There were days, or even weeks, in which she didn't stick to her eating or workout objectives for one reason or another. She never beat herself up over it, instead she would just refocus her mind and get right back into doing what she wanted to do - what she felt she needed to do. She experimented with various diets and exercise regimens to lose her weight and get to where she wanted to be. Sometimes she began eating a particular way and it would have amazing results - for a while. When her eating ways stopped producing changes she would then have to shift or change her way of eating to get continued results. It was the same process with workout routines. There was a whole lot of trial and error and there was not one thing that seemed to work for her entire journey. There were always changes and adjustments that were needed to be made as her body adapted to what she was doing. But every step of the way it was all done by diet and exercise alone. When people would find out about her weight loss journey, many of them would have questions regarding how she did it. Usually they would tell her that they have tried or considered losing weight themselves. I would notice that when she would tell them how she achieved her dramatic weight loss she would get a disheartened "oh", as a response. This response was almost always coupled with something along the lines of, "I could never give up my (insert favorite foods here)." I would see this pattern of conversation play out time and time and time again. It was astonishing to me, to witness so many people get first-hand knowledge from someone who has achieved something above and beyond what they were wanting to accomplish, and suddenly disregard it all when they hear about the work and the sacrifices that it takes to get there. It got me thinking - There is no one singular way to do something and there isn't just one reason why we do anything that we do. There is a number of reasons, I'm sure, why we don't listen to the experts who are in our lives, those who we are familiar with. This is just a theory that I have surmised on ONE of those reasons: Looking for Something Many people are looking for something. Something different. A change. They're looking for better health, a certain spirituality, or that seemingly elusive peace and happiness. Many of these same people have someone in their life who has what they are looking for. That person is rarely asked how they got to where they are, how it is that they accomplished what they did. If and when they are, their ways are always dismissed as taking too long or being too hard or we come up with some other reason to not have to listen to them or accept their advice - their knowledge gained from experience. Why? It's not what we WANT to hear. We spend so much time and energy hoping to find some magical quick-fix for what troubles or ails us. Not finding it may create confusion because we want to believe that there's a certain way to get something, which requires not having to put in a whole lot of work. We don't want to listen to the ones who have actually felt and experienced and understand the struggle. Instead, we'd rather turn to books or to the electronic gurus, the ones on the TV or the internet. They will tell us how we can achieve the results that we desire in the quickest and easiest way possible. How strange; we'll listen to the experts who are trying to sell us something, but we won't listen to those who are closest to us who have no intention other than to see us improve our well-being. Nevertheless, we want our Top 5 lists. We want everything summarized and wrapped up nice and neat in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan. We want change but we want convenience…we just want it all on our own terms. When we look to someone who is not an immediate part of our lives for those answers then it becomes easy to dismiss them. If we don't agree with them or we don't believe them then we can simply turn the channel or turn them off or keep scrolling. We can ignore it and it goes away. We can go back to our comfortable and cozy world and doing things the way we WANT to do them. But if we look to those in our lives that have been there and have the experience for our answers, we have to face ourselves and the cold, hard truth that we may be wrong or that there is no easy way. That can be painful and uncomfortable. It's much easier to listen to someone we don't know. Someone that we can easily ignore or turn off when they say those things - the things we don't want to hear. Experts In truth, an expert on the everyday issues of life doesn't give us something that we didn't already have, they just guide the way. They help us to see what has been there, within us, all along. They have a personal knowledge, gained from experience. Everyone wants answers and as long as we get answers that we like, we’ll keep listening. As soon as we start getting answers we don’t like or we don’t want to hear, we stop listening. We don't listen because we have fixed ideas and beliefs. We don't really want the truth, we want our traditions and beliefs to remain intact. We can agree or disagree with others about what they know or don't know...or we can emulate those who we know that have what we are seeking. And nobody is coming to tell us to turn off our devices and get off the couch and move. Nobody is coming to write out our life plans for us. Nobody is coming to give us permission to pursue our dreams. Nobody is coming to give us some magical answers to make life easier. Nobody. No one can. A real expert has already done the work. They know how hard and difficult the path is. They know of the sacrifices required to stay on the path. They have already experienced it. That experience gives a completely different insight than watching or reading about it. The real issue is not in what others can offer us. The real issue is not what others have that we don't. The real issue is in understanding ourselves, experimenting, and discovering what works for us. No one ever said it would be easy - except maybe the "experts" who are trying to sell you something. There is no magic answer or magic pill. Your spirit, your mind, your body, and what you do with them - that is the magic. "Doctors won't make you healthy. Nutritionists won't make you slim. Teachers won't make you smart. Gurus won't make you calm. Mentors won't make you rich. Trainers won't make you fit. Ultimately, you have to take responsibility. Save yourself." - Naval Ravikant Photo by Grant Krasner

  • Afternoon With an Infant

    We stopped in Santa Fe late last summer for a visit and ended up staying for the winter. The initial plan was to visit Betty's daughter and her family for a week or so and then move on. We were asked to stay and help with the new grandson as this young couple were both still working and they were both exhausted with a (at the time) 2- month-old child. When the grandson was four months old, he and I had some alone time one afternoon while everyone else was working or running errands. He had just eaten, but was still being fussy. I changed his diaper and that helped…for about 2.5 minutes. He continued to be fussy and nothing was working to calm him down, not even the grandpa silliness that usually worked. Turns out, he just wanted to walk around while being held...naturally. We walked from room to room. Some rooms he didn't want to be in and he’d let you know about it. He became the most content when we stood in the kitchen looking at the refrigerator or at things on the counter while I gently swayed him. There was no reason, at least that I was aware of, why he wanted to do this other than to simply observe. He started getting restless again so I had to move. As I was holding him and walking laps around the coffee table - because, of course, this was the only thing currently working to keep him calm - I thought, “isn’t this just like life?” We like to have answers to everything, but often times we simply don’t have that answer. But once we take action, get up and move, do SOMETHING, then the answer comes. Sometimes that answer doesn’t even make sense…but it works. I looked down and he was asleep in my arms. I remember thinking maybe he’ll sleep for a few minutes and I can write something. Taking chances Adventure Creativity Adversity Exploration Curiosity Engaging in challenges Wonder Trying and learning new things There are things that we try to instill or encourage in our children that we, ourselves, seem to have forgotten along the way or simply don't do any more. What if the purpose of having a child is not to teach them our ways, but to re-learn life? Photo Betty Shivers

  • You're Not the Boss of Me!

    Freedom = 1)The state of not being a slave, prisoner, etc. 2)The state of not having or being affected by something unpleasant, painful, or unwanted (Merriam Webster) The freedom that most people talk about is the physical concept that goes something like, "I should be able to do or say whatever I want, whenever I want". That sounds more like anarchy, if you ask me. But we can be restricted by a prison of our own making and live an entire life that way without even knowing it. We can create our own walls between captivity and freedom. Being free is just as much a mental concept as it is a physical one. The mental aspect of being free is when our own thoughts, ideals and beliefs don't chain us down any more. We all have our physical and mental limits - I know. But if we just accept our current physical or mental states, if we never challenge our own thoughts or our own abilities, how do we know if we are really free? We want to be certain of things, it gives us a sense of comfort and security. Being certain also causes us to stop looking for answers, it would have us cling to certain familiar ways of thinking that don't serve us anymore. That is not freedom, that stifles freedom. We're always a prisoner to SOMETHING, but… If fear keeps us from doing something that we are capable of doing and have a desire to do then that fear has control of us. Is that freedom? If our mood is based on a situation or what other people say or do then that controls our emotions and we don't control them ourselves. That's not freedom. If our decisions are always based on what we have to lose, as opposed to what we have to gain, we will fear losing and we will cling to that which we don't want to lose. That's not freedom. If we never face our fears we will never know what we are capable of. Is that freedom? If we never question our own beliefs we will never know if they are really our own. Is that freedom? If we are imprisoned, enslaved, controlled, or limited by our own thoughts, is that really freedom? You get the picture. We are all prisoners and our comforts and our beliefs are the cage. The walls that we built to protect ourselves have become the same walls that now imprison us. We have become our own prisoner, caged in comfort, caged by our own thoughts and beliefs. How can we be free if we haven't removed the chains of which we are unaware? Freedom is when all possibilities are open. Freedom is to be at ease with uncertainty. Freedom is when we can find the mistakes in our own thinking. If we believe those negative voices in our head then we'll use anything and everything as evidence to prove them right. We'll end up clinging to the one thing that we believe proves that we are right, while ignoring the ten things that suggest otherwise. But freedom starts when we begin to question that voice in our head because only then can we begin to see our own blind spots. Real freedom starts when we begin to question OURSELVES, and that freedom can feel overwhelming when we are used to being imprisoned. The first step on the road to freedom is being aware. It can't be fixed or changed if we aren't aware of it. "In the truest sense, freedom can not be bestowed; it must be achieved." - Franklin D. Roosevelt Pic - Betty Shivers

  • In the Silence

    On our initial camping trip to the mountains, which was several years ago, I heard it for the very first time. Complete silence. I always thought I knew what silence was until that trip. I have spent time in silence, away from the hustle and bustle of modernity many times. It was a silence from the distractions of everyday life, but there was always some other noise. Birds chirping, wind rustling the leaves, the wind itself, traffic in the distance, insects doing their thing, rain falling, the buzz of electricity - there was always some form of noise that accompanied me, even in my silence. It was September and we were in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, camping above 10,000 feet on that trip. We were the only people around. After we got used to the altitude (which is another story, itself) and had our dinner, we sat in a silence that was deafening. There were no other people. There were no animals or insects of any kind making noise. There was no wind. There were no electrical lines overhead. Every inhale and exhale of breath seemed so loud. I thought I knew what silence was until I heard absolutely nothing. I have heard absolute silence several times since then and I am captivated and in awe every time I experience it. ************** There is a great number of people in this day and age who have a strong aversion to silence. Silence is not only turning off the tv or the music or our phones. Silence is also not distracting ourselves with our own thoughts. When we are distracted, things go unnoticed. When things go unnoticed they will also go unquestioned. If it goes unquestioned then how is it being answered? We are so accustomed to noise that silence doesn't even seem natural. We fall into the all too comfortable trap of being around others or having something turned on and making noise just to avoid the silence. I don't believe that people are afraid of silence, but they're afraid of the possible noises, the thoughts, that may break the silence. I think that the strength it takes to choose to be alone in silence is incredibly underrated. To a culture of noise and urgency, which thrives on stress, silence and stillness come across as a weakness. Silence is not the absence of sound, it is a sound and like all sounds, it coincides with a feeling. Sit in the stillness. Sit in the silence. Hear it. Feel it. That pain, that discomfort that you feel when it's quiet and you are still… That's just your fear. It's the fear of facing yourself. It's avoiding the feelings. Feelings of not being enough, of shame, vulnerability, rejection, and all manner of insecurities. But it's only uncomfortable because it's unfamiliar. In the silence we begin to understand ourselves until one day we are no longer a stranger in our own lives. In the silence it may be recognized that the "YOU" that you present to the world isn't the real "YOU". In the silence we realize that it's not about finding anything, it's about becoming. Sitting in silence with ourselves is like sitting out in the woods all alone as the sun goes down, or camping in the mountains without a single noise, as we did. We may hear things breaking the silence that we're unsure of, things that aren't familiar. Do we fear it? Do we ignore it and hope it goes away? Or do we look into what it is and where it came from? Be quiet and listen to yourself. Listen to who you are, not who you wish you were or who you THINK you are. Be honest with yourself. Listen to the real you. The real you is seen and heard in the stillness and the silence of the mind. Silence is a very revealing sound, it may also be the most ignored. Silence is in the space between other sounds. Listen for it. Silence is not empty. Silence is viewed simply as an absence of noise but silence is a resource; it's information. In the silence the truth is loud. We can only hear the silence when we stop. And listen. In the silence we open up to ourselves and we face ourselves - if we choose to. It's a choice. It's always a choice. Choose yourself. "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." - Blaise Pascal Pic by Grant Krasner

  • The Self-Care that Nobody Talks About

    This post was originally published July 24, 2022 on Elephant Journal and can be seen there via the link at the bottom. ********************************* We want answers, we want the truth...but only if it makes us feel good. It's been a very wet and chilly summer so far. I'm sitting in the lodge of a campground looking out the window at yet another damp and cool day. I haven't had the time to write anything in a while, but this seemed like a good time to get out of the elements for a bit and sit in a controlled environment to do just that. My girlfriend and I are spending the summer working at a campground above 9,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado while living, along with our dog, in a small 3-person tent that we use when we all go backpacking. This is bear and mountain lion country, and showers are a commodity. The early morning temperatures in the summer up here are usually in the 40 degree fahrenheit range and it's not uncommon to drop down into the 30's. Only one night has been spent indoors in over a month. The way I look at it, though, is that all of this is self-care. I do not believe that self-care is only being kind or gentle with ourselves. Allow me to explain… Self-care is what we do to have and to maintain a healthy life physically, psychologically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. There is also a multi-billion-dollar industry packaging and promoting products and practices to help us achieve optimal health. We have boxed and labeled and categorized self-care, as we tend to do with most things, thereby limiting how we view it and limiting its effect on us. When we throw our money at any merchandise, a pill, a smoothie, a feel-good plan, or an app, then we may have bought into the belief that we need something else, something outside of ourselves, for our health or happiness to be better - and business is booming! But I don't believe that self-care should come from a product so much, nor should it be a routine or our default way of dealing with the stresses of life. True self-care, as I see it, takes work and will frequently make us uncomfortable. If we look at it as a mindset rather than a practice or a routine then we may find our own self-care in absolutely everything we do. It may look different for everyone, but sometimes self-care is being more curious than convinced. Sometimes it's about challenging and pushing ourselves beyond what we're comfortable with. It's giving ourselves permission to be uncomfortable. It's making the inconvenient choices and asking the hard questions. It's looking at those things we don't want to do but doing it anyway. It's when we feel like quitting but we don't. It's about recognizing our own shortcomings and then doing something so we don't keep falling victim to them. It's listening to things we don't want to hear, like good arguments that make us uncomfortable. It's not ignoring the negative but trying to understand it. Sometimes self-care is not about trying to reduce or control all of the variables but exploring them and experimenting with them. It's confronting our fears, being scared, but still doing it. It's about doing something completely outside of our comfort zone. It's seeking out information that contradicts our beliefs. It's not about being hard on ourselves, it's about being honest with ourselves and not playing games with ourselves - those mind games that we don't even know that we're playing or that we simply refuse to acknowledge. Sometimes self-care is about standing in there and enduring the issue. It's not about trying to avoid the pain or discomfort but allowing ourselves to suffer through it to see what it has to teach us about ourselves rather than trying to change it or avoid it - so that we may come out stronger on the other side. If life was supposed to be easy and without challenges we would never grow. It's been almost four years since we sold our home and all of our belongings and began living life on the road. One thing that I have learned in that time - really learned - is that overcoming the difficulty of something is what makes it the most rewarding. We may say that we know this and yet difficulty is what we spend most of our time trying to avoid. To maximize our happiness or satisfaction, we need a good portion of the opposite. We can't build resilience by trying to feel good all of the time. It's built by facing hardships, pain, and disappointment. If we are always protecting ourselves from the hard things or the difficult things then how can we have an understanding of them or know what to do with them when they do come? But when we condition ourselves to do the difficult things, the difficult things become easier. Just as muscle is built by physical resistance, pressure, and adversity, so is our emotional and mental strength. The road to self-care is paved with sweat and tears and pain just as much as it's paved with relaxation and gentleness and kindness with ourselves. If we're always trying to feel safe, we don't have to go very far to feel unsafe. If we're always trying to be comfortable, it doesn't take as much to make us uncomfortable. Self-care is about developing the mental, physical and spiritual resources to get us through challenging and difficult times. It is not just about doing what we need to do to survive the day, it's also about building ourselves up to take on the day. When self-care is a mindset and not just a routine or a practice then every situation, every problem, everything becomes an opportunity to learn something, to better ourselves, to become stronger, and to grow. That, to me, is self-care. Yes, we all need a time and a place and a way to relax, regroup, recharge, and refocus our energies. By all means, we should take some time to be kind and gentle with ourselves and we all need some assistance every now and then. But self-care can easily become self-sabotage if we're not careful. Self-care is not the problem, but how we use it may be. This is the self-care that nobody talks about because this is the self-care that requires us to look at ourselves and be completely honest about the role we play in our own well being. We seem to want the results but without having to go through the process. We want answers, we want truth…but only if it makes us feel good. The hard truth is always a tough sell because it is not an appealing soundbite, and it doesn't sell a lot of products. It never did. My thoughts about self-care became published on Elephant Journal which can be seen here - Pic by Grant Krasner

  • A Mountainous Love Affair

    I've always been fascinated by mountains. I used to sit and look at pictures of these majestic behemoths in the Rockies and the Andes and the Himalayas for what seemed like hours. There was so much to take in from every photo; the contours, the shadows, the cliffs and valleys and peaks. So much terrain to absorb in a single shot. I grew up on the Plains so I would wonder what it was like to be there. Mountains also intimidated me. I really didn't know anything about them except that they could be very dangerous. Maybe, in my mind, they represented the great unknown or beckoned to my inner adventurer. From the beginning of time up until approximately the mid 1800's the ocean represented adventure and the unknown to most people. The seashore was where journeys began and ended. It was a great barrier between cultures and civilizations. It was a vast nothingness, a wilderness inhabited only by pirates. Dangers came from other lands by way of the shore. Then, with the industrial revolution, the seaside went from a place of danger and mystery and a source of food to a place of recreation. It went from a place that heightened people's senses to a place where people go to dull their senses. There are individuals who still go to the ocean for adventure or for a challenge, just as there are those who go to the mountains to recreate or just to enjoy their beauty. Still, there was something...something about the mountains that drew me to them and I didn't know what it was. I recently spent over two years living in a sea of mountains and I saw the distinct and unmistakable season changes. In the mountains the winters are long and harsh and very quiet. The summers can see the mountains bustling with visitors. Autumn turns a green hillside into a golden spectacle. I saw how the clouds or the time of day would alter the look of the entire landscape. The Milky Way is visible to the naked eye while this giant rock hurls through space. The sky often explodes with color at sunrise or sunset, but only for a few moments and then it's gone. It's easy to miss if one is not watching. I had the opportunity to learn how to read and to navigate different and constantly changing topography, to have an idea of what to look for concerning avalanches and avalanche terrain. The sheer size of the mountains reminds me of how small I really am. There were new sounds, like the sounds of a lake freezing over or an elk bugling in a nearby meadow or hearing a bear rummaging through the camp site that would wake me up in the middle of the night. I heard rock slides in a basin as I was passing nearby. The most amazing sound was the sound of pure silence as I stood and listened. There was no traffic, no people talking, no wind, no electricity buzzing. Absolutely nothing. Only my own breathing. It was almost spooky at first. It is a complete and utter silence, the likes of which I feel like very few people today have ever heard. The mountains were swarming with majestic, yet dangerous, wildlife. Animals that reminded me that we are not necessarily at the top of the food chain. There was the coyote that was passing by that stopped to exchange looks with me, trying to determine if I was a threat or not. There was the moose that I was watching with my dog as it grazed, slowly getting closer to us until I could see that its hackles were raised. Knowing that the moose sees a dog just as it sees a wolf or a coyote, as a mortal enemy, I began to cautiously back away, looking for an escape route through the aspens in case it decided to charge at us. There were the bears that walked right by our camp site as they tried to pack on 20,000 calories a day before going into their winter torpor, and we knew that if they get a hold of human food then our problems would quickly escalate. Or the unseen mountain lion that I knew had seen me when I had the palpable and eerie feeling that I was being watched while walking the dog. I looked around and saw nothing. But after turning to make our way back, even the dog kept stopping and looking behind us, confirming to me that we were, in fact, being watched by unseen eyes. Maybe what drew me to the mountains was all of these things. Maybe it was none of them. Maybe I still haven't figured out what it is that evoked my curiosity. One thing that I'm certain of is the mountains represent adventure and the unknown to me, just as the ocean once did to so many people. The mountains are peaceful one day and intimidating on another day. They are beautiful on this day and dangerous on that day. They're majestic one day, yet humbling on the next day. The mountains are a frontier full of extremes. The mountains constantly changed and challenged me, just like life. They taught me things about myself that I didn't even know I needed to learn, as long as I was willing to listen. My senses are heightened in the mountains which makes me more focused. That makes every experience richer, more intense, more vivid. The mountains perform a daily symphony of sights and sounds that need to be experienced, not just witnessed. They challenge me and let me know that I can do hard things. The mountains let me know that I'm alive. Photo by - Grant Krasner

  • Addition by Subtraction

    "If I am what I have and if I lose what I have who then am I?” - Erich Fromm I worked for the same company for many years. It was a privately owned company when I began working there but the company was eventually sold to a corporation. Soon after that it did what corporations seem to do. I remember when they began letting people go. I recall watching two men that I had worked closely with getting shown the door. I think they were both somewhere near their mid 50's and had a good 50 years of experience at this place between the two of them. Within a year of being let go, both of them had passed away. It was said that without their jobs they had lost their identity, their purpose. We tend to cling to things that we believe give us our identity. Things that we have no control over and that can change in an instant. What happens when those things are suddenly gone? Who/What am I? What if the ideals that we have about our life are not our life? Take away your name, your social security number, your phone number, your work ID number, your address, and any other number that you associate with your identity. Take away your job title and any other title that goes next to your name. Remove what people think of you and, while you're at it, remove what you think about yourself. Forget about your education, your status in society, all of your experiences and your ideas. Forget your entire history. Let go of every concept, every thought, every story, every goal and every belief that you have now or have ever had. Take away everything you have ever earned and everything you have ever learned. Take away all of your possessions, your achievements, and everything you think you know. Forget about every thing and every one and every feeling that you are attached to that you think defines who and what you are. None of these things are you, they are only pieces of you that you gave significance to. But when you take them away... What's left? Who are you? What are you? You… Are... LIFE!! Pic by - Grant Krasner

  • My Disclaimer

    If we don't - or won't - question our own capabilities and beliefs then what are we? It should be noted that I am not a therapist, nutritionist, scientist, or psychologist. Nor am I a counselor, consultant, or coach. I'm just a person with a lot of questions. In the articles on this site I write about my personal thoughts, beliefs and opinions, based upon my own perspective and my experiences. These thoughts and beliefs and opinions come from years and years of self-experimentation and self-reflection. They come from questioning and challenging MYSELF. Your mileage may vary, your views may differ, and that's okay. Not every thought or statement that I write is going to be 100% true for you. Some things work for one but not for another. Some things you can relate to while others can't relate. It's about perspective. I most definitely have my beliefs and opinions, but I also know that these beliefs and opinions are subject to change. Just because I believe something today does not mean that I will believe it exactly the same way tomorrow. I think it's perfectly normal, healthy even, to have changing and shifting beliefs. There are those who would have you think that changing your beliefs implies that you are being wishy-washy. I suppose that if we define ourselves by our beliefs then that would be understandable. If our beliefs define us then challenging or questioning a belief would be like a threat to our integrity - to our very existence. But that is a post for another day. My question would be, what is your relationship with your beliefs? Where do they come from? Why can't we question, argue with, or interrogate our own beliefs? Why are our beliefs non-negotiable? What kind of belief can't be questioned?? It's a belief, not a lifetime contract. It seems to me that to hold fast to a particular belief is also to neglect or ignore other possible explanations. Again, this is a post for another time. The point in my rambling is this; I share my writings to hopefully inspire you to look at things from a slightly different perspective, to provoke thought in the form of introspection. You are not obligated in any way to believe me. We are all moving through life at different speeds and therefore seeing things from different angles. My advice is to simply know your physical and mental limits, your capabilities, then gently and little by little, stretch them. Stay curious! There is an infinite number of ways to look at something and it's different for all of us. We call it perspective. There is an immeasurable number of ways to get from Point A to Point B. In my articles I share what has worked, or what is working, for me. That doesn't necessarily mean that what works for me will work for you, but maybe you will find something that will help you on your own personal journey of navigating through this amazing experience that we call LIFE. I am not suggesting that you sell your home and all of your belongings, as I did, and live out of your vehicle. I am not telling you to ignore your current physical or mental status to go do something way beyond your capabilities, either. This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. DO NOT ignore your physician's or your therapist's advice. If you don't have one, but you feel the need to see a physician or a therapist or a spiritual advisor then, by all means, please go see them. As for me; I frequently make the wrong choices or decisions. I am as prone to losing my cool as anyone else. I don't have it all figured out and as long as I live and breathe I never will. I know that. I also know that accepting my current state as "that's just how it is", without challenging or questioning it, is a blind acceptance that does nothing for anyone - most of all, myself. Why do we only challenge things that we DON'T want to accept? Are our beliefs that fragile? What are we doing to ourselves if we turn our backs on information only because we don't believe it or don't want to know it? Pic by Coffee And A Map

  • 3 Sayings That Have Greatly Influenced My Thinking

    There are three sayings that I've come across in my years that have stuck with me and have had a huge impact on my thinking and, subsequently, my life. These sayings have tremendously influenced my thought processes and the way I look at things. Without any further ado, here they are; 1. The only way to know where a boundary is, is to cross it I couldn't tell you where or when I first heard this saying. All I can tell you is that there was something about it that resonated with me and it keeps me, to this day, testing my own limits. I guess I was practicing this saying well before I even heard it. It was not unusual for me to be going left when every one else was going right. I've been pushing my own physical and mental boundaries, as well as boundaries with other people sometimes. There are times i haven't pushed boundaries enough, while other times I have, unfortunately, pushed them too far. After working almost 20 years for the same company, they did what corporations seem to do these days. Being near the top of the ladder in time served, I was given the option of being moved to a different department and taking a pay cut or taking a voluntary lay-off. Thinking it was a good time to make a change, I chose the latter and to take my chances in the unknown. I took a year or so off and found myself going down numerous rabbit holes of research trying to absorb everything I could while I had the chance. This (among other things) led to my girlfriend, Betty, and I selling our home and almost all of our possessions and taking to the road to live the nomadic life over four years ago. It's a journey that we are still on. We had a little bit of a plan, a mission, when we began this journey. While that plan is still at the core of what we do, the entire journey has been altered. The thing is, we are all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for, both physically and mentally. Don't let anyone tell you what your limits are. Don't even listen to yourself because until you have pushed yourself to the breaking point you can't honestly know where it is. And even then it must be asked; is it an actual breaking point or is it a point that I somehow predetermined that I am not passing? There is a difference. The only way to know is to cross that imaginary line. ******** 2. What if I'm wrong? Again, I couldn't tell you where or when I initially heard this question. I couldn't tell you who said it, either. That's a shame because this may very well be one of the most important, yet overlooked, questions of all time. When you take the human experience and break it down to its simplest form, as we have done, it transforms you. When you let go of who you think you are, but are not - when you upend your life and your entire world on purpose - when you intentionally put yourself into a world that you are not comfortable in, when your limits are continually pushed and uncertainty is the order of the day...that's when you begin to discover who you really are. Things become very clear when all of the outside voices are silenced and when there is nowhere to run to and no way to escape. I've had most, if not all, of my thoughts and beliefs challenged. I have challenged many of them on my own. See, everything around us is constantly changing and even science is learning more about our external and internal world every day. Yet we cling to the same thoughts and ideas and beliefs year after year after year. I think we need to challenge our beliefs from time to time. All of them. Otherwise we may be just dancing with dogma. We can question every thing and every one around us, but do we ever think to question ourselves? Doubt, although it may be uncomfortable, keeps us looking for answers. Certainty, as comfortable as it may seem, causes us to stop looking. I believe that one of the most important and overlooked questions we can ask ourselves about any thing at any time (with unfettered honesty) is, "what if I'm wrong?" ********* 3. As long as you live, keep learning how to live Okay, I do know where this saying came from. I am not a stoic or a philosophy major but this saying is attributed to the Greek philosopher, Seneca. At first it seemed like an odd saying and I had to sit with it for many moons before it began to take hold in my thinking. What does "As long as you live, keep learning how to live" even mean?? There are always things we don't know about the things we know. When we think we know, when we think we have the answers, we stop looking at things with curiosity or wonder. We stop asking questions and that's when we stop learning and growing. We go from evolving to simply revolving. We all want the truth, but to find the truth we need to find the mistakes in our own thinking. And therein lies the most difficult, the most challenging, the most life altering struggle of all. This journey/adventure that Betty and I are on has left me with a lot of thoughts, many of which I am still working through. Like all great journeys, this one has answered questions that, in the beginning, I didn't even think to ask. It has also raised many more questions. Life, itself, is a journey. ********** The human condition. Life. It's about so much more than myself or my opinions. It seems to be more about how we look at things collectively. If that's the case then maybe we all need to do the dirty work, the scary, the unpleasant and uncomfortable work of looking deep within ourselves first. The one thing that I can change, that I've always been able to change, is myself. As the saying goes, every one wants to change the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves. I think a little introspection can go a long way. Never stop learning. Never stop questioning. Never stop doing. Never stop seeking. Never stop exploring. Never stop! Pic by Coffee And A Map

  • How to Fix a Problem

    When I simplified my life and began living out of a truck it had a way of putting all the problems of life in a whole new light. When basic needs such as food and shelter became my priorities then everything else became a secondary concern, or was not a concern at all. My perspectives and expectations started to change. I began to see how I used to worry or get upset about really trivial things, even though they didn't seem so trivial at the time. Many thoughts and feelings and ideals that I thought were important, only because I gave importance to them, turned out to be not so important in the grand scheme of things. Comfort as I knew it was now a luxury. I had to learn how to find some form of comfort in whatever situation I was in. Challenges had to be faced and were a lot less difficult and, therefore, easier to overcome when they were embraced. Problems were no longer problems, but just another thing to figure out. Sometimes I got really dirty or wet or cold (and sometimes a combination of them) or experienced some other form of discomfort in the process of figuring it out. Sometimes I didn't figure it out at all and, instead, I had to figure out how to just be okay with it and work with it as best as I could. Does that mean unfortunate things don't happen anymore? Of course not. There's always going to be problems. There will always be unwanted, unpleasant, and/or undesirable circumstances and I am an extremely flawed human who still loses his sh*t. But when I can catch myself losing it, when I can slow down and take a step back, I can see that there is always an answer. There is always a way to fix a problem. And as my outlook on these problems began to shift I started to see the real cause. The quickest and easiest way to escape a problem is to solve it. To solve it means to find the cause. Rather than just trying to find a solution to the problem, perhaps we should try to figure out the cause of the problem in the first place. We can learn more and more solutions to our problems (but they keep coming back) or we can unlearn the problem, itself. What may seem like a thing to one of us may not be the same thing to another. No matter what problems - or how many - we think we have, we can always find someone who seems to have it worse but doesn't see it that way. It's a matter of perspective. How else does someone see an opportunity for growth where another just sees struggle? How else does one person see a challenge where another person only sees a problem? A thing is just a thing and the thing I realized about problems is that they are just like fears...they don't exist anywhere except in our own minds. How did I figure out how to fix a problem? If it's a situation that I can't change or control or don't like, the first thing is to try to let go of the idea that there even is a problem. Then I have to try to learn how to accept the reality of whatever situation I'm in and work with it. Once I realized that my problems were caused by my own doing or the way I looked at things, I was faced with fixing myself. We seem to always want to change something (or someone) about our environment but we never think to change ourselves. So I changed how I looked at the problem. I changed my perspective. I re-framed it and gave it a new or different meaning. When I fixed myself and outgrew the problem then that problem would die a natural death. Every. Single. Time. We can blame the world for our problems. We can blame everyone and every thing for what is going on. But life is not the problem. That person is not the problem. The circumstances are not the problem. The problem is not the problem. It's not people or things or events that upset us, it's the conversations that we have with ourselves. It's how our minds look at things, our expectations, our judgement of the situation, and our beliefs that are the problem. Our own mind is the cause of the problem. It all changes when I can stop trying to make things go the way that I expect them to, or think they should, or want them to. When I can accept things as they are and not how I want them to be, when I surrender myself, problems cease to exist. It's so simple, yet one of the most difficult things, to realize that my own expectations and beliefs, my own perspective was the cause of many problems. The good news is that it also meant that I was the solution to the problem. Problems don't stop, and they only change when we do. When we can't change a situation or our circumstances we are challenged to change ourselves, and that changes everything. Suddenly one day all of the absurdities of life began to make sense. Pic by Coffee And A Map

  • Why Change Seems so Hard

    A lot of what I write is to share my story, but I also like to write just for myself. I'm always jotting down thoughts and ideas. Sometimes a mixture of those writings come together and take on a life of their own, such as this one. ******** There are certain situations or times when we reflect on the changes that have occurred in our life, or the changes we wish to make going forward. A lot - okay, just about everything - has changed for me over the past few years and it continues to change. While some of those changes were deliberate, others were random or unexpected. Everything Changes Change. Everything is in the process of becoming something else. We are, quite literally, not the same person that we were yesterday. Cells in our bodies die and new ones are born. Every experience we have and every decision we make alters our views, even if it's in the smallest and subtlest of ways. Every thing and every one is in a constant state of change. Making a change on a personal level can be anywhere from hard to impossible until "business-as-usual" becomes too uncomfortable or unbearable. Change isn't easy. It's challenging and difficult. But, why? Everything changes and we say that we know it, but do we? If we know it then why does change continue to be so hard to accept? Did you know the average person has thousands of thoughts per day? The National Science Foundation published an article in 2005 summarizing research on human thoughts. It said that 95% of our thoughts are the same ones that were had the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that…the same familiar thoughts lead to the same familiar choices, which leads to the same familiar actions. We are caught in routines. We repeat the same patterns, making each day just a rerun of the past. It's Personal When we try to make a change in our lives then we are suddenly thinking different thoughts. We are no longer making those same familiar choices that we have always been making. Different thoughts and different choices create different actions and, ultimately, feelings. We are suddenly outside of our comfort zone. The usual course of events has been altered and we don't know what's coming next. We find ourselves in unfamiliar and unpredictable territory and we don't like uncertainty. We got comfortable in our familiar routines, having familiar thoughts and feelings until they became ingrained in us. Staying in a familiar and predictable situation, as unpleasant as it may seem, is still familiar and we feel safer staying with what's familiar than venturing into the unknown. We may not like the situation, but at least we know what to do with it. Right or wrong, good or bad, we associate familiarity with safety and normalcy. Change can be hard because we are stepping out of our comfort zone and are faced with challenging our previously held ideas and beliefs that have served us up to this point and we don't want to let go of them, even if they no longer serve us. We're breaking the addiction to being who we believe we are. We have told ourselves a story that we are a certain way for so long that we have convinced ourselves it's an absolute truth. Face It Nothing changes for us, on an individual level, unless we do. When we can't change a situation then we are challenged to change ourselves and THAT changes everything. Change can be hard enough, but when we knowingly - or unknowingly - play games with ourselves, when we lie to ourselves, and when we are mentally dishonest with ourselves, like thinking that by simply flipping the calendar to a new year things will change, it makes everything harder. And that is the true tragedy. Personal change can be hard if we're always looking for something outside of ourselves to change something on the inside. We can't change that which we are unwilling to confront. To change ourselves we have to face ourselves. And it's hard to change when you can't see yourself. There is no remote control on life. We have to get up and change it ourselves. You can do this! Pic by Coffee And A Map

  • A Grand Experiment

    What happens when what we see, read, or hear doesn’t match up with what we know? What happens when our sense of reality is challenged? It's A Dead End Trail - Or is It? Imagine, if you will… You discover previously unknown or unconsidered evidence about something. You’re trying to follow the trail that's been revealed by this evidence, but somewhere along the way things happened that you don't understand, things that don't make sense. You consider yourself to be open-minded, inquisitive, maybe even philosophical, so you pursue this new evidence to see where it goes. But in following the evidence, it begins to make you uncomfortable as it seems to get further and further from your expectations of reality and eventually brings you to what you consider to be an impossible belief. This just can’t be, there must be another explanation for this. You can’t justify it anymore. No matter how hard you look, you can’t find a suitable answer that aligns with what you know about reality. To believe this new evidence would go against the convictions that you already hold. It would go against everything you’ve been taught. This causes you to stop your pursuit because you don’t think that you can change your beliefs or your world view. So what do you do? The Element of Uncertainty At this point of the investigation many people will usually do one of three things, or even some combination of them. They may draw a conclusion based solely on a gut feeling, they may double-down on already existing beliefs, or they may shift the burden of proof off of themselves and onto someone else. None of these actions get us closer to the truth, they only protect the beliefs that we have already put in place. Imagine if Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, or any number of other scientists took one of these routes. Many of us have difficulty accepting flaws in our existing belief system and trust me, they are there. Acknowledging a flaw creates uncertainty and we don’t like uncertainty because it makes us uncomfortable. But the thing is, when we are certain of something then we stop looking for answers. Uncertainty can move us to investigate the unknown and the unexpected, it can also leave us overwhelmed with doubt. We all know less than we think we know and I’m pretty sure that on some level we are aware of that. So, what if we approached our lives like a scientist would approach their research, not in the analytical sense, but in the experimental sense? Be Like a Scientist A scientist shouldn't concentrate on what they know, but on what they don't know. After many experiments and observations they come up with theories.  The scientist then tries to prove the theory wrong. More experiments and more observations are used to further test those theories. Their quest for answers, for truth, never ends but they are always gaining more knowledge. A scientist should ask questions. Many questions. Questions that help them adopt changes.  Questions that examine alternative possibilities. Questions that lead to developing new ideas. Questions that are asked in such a way, not to prove their theories but to disprove them. A scientist should use any and all means necessary to try to understand deeper, to gain more and more insight. A scientist should devise and conduct tests to challenge their "facts", not to confirm them.  Their search for understanding doesn't end when they feel that they have all of the facts. No, that's where the search really begins. Can it honestly be called research if a scientist only looks for things to confirm their already existing beliefs? If their research doesn't cause them to question their own "facts" or bring them to a place where they begin to question what they think they know…is it really research? Abridgment (Stay Curious!) Insert your own name in place of the word "scientist" in the paragraphs above. Be like a scientist with your life. Seek. Seek to discover, but don’t attach yourself to the results that you find. Ask questions, don't make statements because it's not about finding the right answers so much, it's about asking the right questions. Question and challenge your own ideas and understanding. Explore and experiment with unknowns.  Change the variables of the world that you interact with. Be more committed to your curiosity than to your convictions. Curiosity is, after all, the driving force behind science, and the great ones were relentlessly curious. Live life like it's one big, grand, experiment.  Stay curious and be like a scientist and you may be surprised at what you discover. While following a trail of evidence there may be, at some point, a bridge. A bridge between the possible and the impossible, between analytical and experience, between acceptance and denial, between certainty and uncertainty, between what we think we know and everything else. Cross that bridge. To discover is not to believe in something, to discover is to be willing to let go of what we do believe. "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny …'" - Isaac Asimov Pic by Coffee And A Map

  • Lessons From A Cold Water Immersion

    Yes, I did a cold water immersion. The reason why I wanted to do it is probably not what you think it is. This was one of my published writings, which can also be seen by clicking the link at the bottom. Hello, Me The fact that we can think about our thoughts, observe how we are acting, and notice how we are feeling, means that we can change or adjust them if we choose to. In psychology this is known as metacognition. We like to say that we know ourselves, but what if we really only know the thoughts and feelings that we are familiar with? Last winter I did the cold water immersion, sometimes referred to as a polar plunge or ice bath. It is the process of allowing one's body to spend time in water that is below 58 degrees Fahrenheit. In this case it was considerably closer to the freezing temperature (the picture is actually me in the water). I have read about the health benefits of doing this, such as improved circulation and reduced muscle inflammation, among other things. Some of the proclaimed benefits are proven and some are just theorized. I was definitely intrigued by these benefits but there was another reason - the main reason that made me want to do this. Have you ever gotten on a plane or had to speak in public and your heart starts racing, you get a particular unrest in your stomach, and palms start sweating? Have you ever been in traffic and started getting anxious and your muscles tensed because you thought you were going to be late to wherever you were going? Our body is producing a physiological response - an actual physical reaction - to a thought. What's more, these thoughts are of a perceived or hypothetical or imagined outcome. While these may be on the extreme end of examples, they illustrate the fact that our thoughts can and do create chemistry in our body. This is biology. Getting In the Water When you begin to get into water that is this cold, the process begins with an involuntary gasping, almost hyperventilation. The heart starts racing and panic sets in. Adrenaline, glucose, fats, cortisol and beta-endorphin hormones are dumped into the bloodstream - a chemical storm that creates the classic fight-or-flight sensation. Does it sound like fun, yet? This is what happens physiologically as our body reacts to a combination of external stimuli and our thoughts. But, wait, there's more! While standing on a towel on the ice in nothing but a swimsuit, looking into the hole that's been cut into the ice to access the river and watching the frigid water flowing underneath the ice, the mind is initially consumed by panic, discomfort, apprehension, and even fear. There is a choice at this time to let these thoughts and feelings take control and influence the decision or to go on, in spite of them. To continue is to descend the ladder into the water. Once into the water above the knees, the involuntary gasping begins. There is an awareness of the gasping. To be aware of something occurring internally means that it can also be altered or changed. Again, a choice is made. Focus. Slow, intentional breaths. Focus is only on the breathing. All the way in the water now while still taking slow, and intentional breaths. Something shifts. The nervous system has been tapped into. The fight-or-flight reaction has been overridden. The reaction is now being controlled. The voices that are around become incoherent, almost white noise or even completely blending in with the surrounding environment. Focus is on one single voice - the voice saying to breathe. Eventually that voice fades out as a kind of hyper awareness to the moment sets in. Every sensation is felt and noticed. It is observed, peculiarly enough, how being entirely and thoroughly in the moment and aware of every mental and physical sensation seems like an out-of-body experience. After 30 seconds a voice pierces the experience of the moment saying, "Time's up!", and it's over. Climbing the ladder to get out of the water brings awareness to not being able to feel the steps with the feet, even as they're being stood on, and the cold winter air is not as cold as it was before getting into the water. The Value of Discomfort We tend to stop ourselves from doing something when we reach a particular point that we have determined to be uncomfortable. This stopping point is well below the limit that we are actually capable of reaching; it's only a level of personal comfort. We want what's easy. We crave comfort and the familiar. But if we are doing everything that we can to remain in this place of comfort we can never genuinely know our true potential. Our body will only go where we let our mind take it, and this is the part that had me so intrigued. Most people fail to see the value of discomfort, but to discover what we are capable of and to really know ourselves, we must take ourselves to places we are not familiar with - to uncomfortable places - and to challenge ourselves and to push ourselves to uncomfortable levels. We can say that we know ourselves all day long, but if we never allow ourselves to be in uncomfortable situations, how can we possibly know? It is in discomfort, in the uncomfortable situations, that we can learn the most about ourselves, but it requires getting beyond the fears and the doubts and actually facing ourselves. To Control or Not to Control A cold water immersion can change the way our bodies respond to anxiety and stress, it can also reveal how much - or how little - control we have over our own inner workings. We have much more control over our internal world than many of us know or care to believe. We may not be able to control what is happening, but we can absolutely control how we respond to what is happening. The only environment that we have control over is our internal one, yet that's the environment that we least try to control because we're busy trying to "fix" everything or everyone else. We need to control the only thing that we were ever really able to control to begin with - ourselves. But, then again, how do we control something that we don't really understand? This was published on Elephant Journal. To see it there, click on the link. Pic by Coffee And A Map

  • Who Is Listening?

    Have you ever noticed that when you show a genuine interest in someone - someone you may not even know - you can ask them even just a couple of questions about themselves and before you know it they are telling you personal details, if not their entire life story? It's amazing what people will tell us if we just listen, and they believe that we are listening. As a species, our greatest needs (other than food, shelter, and clothing) are to be seen and heard. We want to be acknowledged and understood. Talking about ourselves is one big way that we feel these things. We all just want to be heard and acknowledged without judgement. Possibly the greatest gift that we can give someone is to just LISTEN. Listen with curiosity. Don't listen to reply. Don't listen to talk at all. Just listen to understand. True listening requires us to let go of our agendas and our desire for control. It means asking questions rather than stating answers. True listening takes effort. It takes focus. Listening requires humility because you are putting someone else first. What if we stop insisting, accusing, blaming, warning, arguing, demanding, explaining, proclaiming, denying, and suggesting and just listened? If we have to be right all the time then there is no room for curiosity or understanding. We don't have to agree with someone just to listen to them. Listening and asking questions is how we learn. Listening is intended to promote understanding. Asking pertinent questions shows that we are interested and that we want to understand. If we are only listening to respond or argue our own beliefs then we are not truly listening or understanding. Being a good listener is not something that just happens. It's not something that we just can or can't do. It takes time and practice, much like anything else, which would make it a skill. A skill that seems to be disappearing. Everyone wants to be heard. It gives us a sense of belonging. Everyone wants to hear a story. They are the substance of our lives. And we all have a story to tell that is imperfect, yet original and beautiful. But nobody is asking questions. If nobody is asking questions then who is listening? "Being heard is so close to being loved that most people can't tell the difference."  - David Augsburger Pic by Grant Krasner

  • The Beauty of Vulnerability: An Exercise in Letting Go

    It's easy to feel confident or optimistic when we feel like we have a lot of security behind us. But what happens when all of those securities are gone? What happens when we let go of everything for the guarantee of nothing? What if the questions we avoid, the ones that make us uncomfortable, are the ones holding the most insight? It's been almost four years since I walked away from everything that I had, that I knew, and that I was comfortable with. There was a general plan in place when Betty (my partner, SO, companion, girlfriend, she's even been referred to as my wife) and I decided to live life on the road, but those plans were altered or had to be changed again and again and again. When things don't work out the way that we intended them to, it can be very inconvenient and annoying at first, to say the least. I began writing down my thoughts and ideas and feelings somewhere along the way as a means to help me understand and process everything that was happening and that I was going through internally. Not only did I begin writing things down, I decided to start sharing them publicly for some odd reason, which is even more peculiar as I am typically a quiet and reserved person. I figured I'm already wading into a strange new world, might as well dive all the way in and see what happens. I've been in vulnerable situations before but as long as I could help it, it was always a guarded or cautious vulnerability. The type that I felt that I could retreat from quickly with minimal damage to my ego, my self-esteem, my psyche. It would be like sticking my foot out from under the covers on an icy cold morning to see how cold it was and then yanking my foot back in as soon as I felt the cold air. But this time it was different; this time it was like jumping clear out of bed on that same icy cold morning only to find that the bed was suddenly gone and my clothes were nowhere to be found. Now what?? When we open ourselves up to being vulnerable then we are no longer in our comfort zone; it is when we feel that we are no longer in control. When we are used to being in control this can be awkward, uncomfortable, or even downright scary. In an age that seems obsessed with comfort, conviction, competency and control, why should we make space for vulnerability? It's not like anybody has ever won an award for being "The Most Vulnerable". We don't even like when the unexpected happens, unless, of course, it is to our benefit. So why would we deliberately subject ourselves to a vulnerable - not to be confused with life threatening or illegal - situation? We never realize how much we do, or don't do, something until we actively attempt the opposite. We don't realize how much we are used to getting our way until we put ourselves in a place where no one knows us, much less cares who we are. It was a scary thing to consciously and voluntarily put myself out there, to willingly make myself vulnerable. There are those who would say that living out of a truck is a disadvantage, that allowing ourselves to be exposed will make us more susceptible to hurt or disappointment or any number of negative things. Sure, that's a possibility, but isn't that a risk even when we are at our most guarded? We can focus on what we have to lose or we can focus on what we have to gain and I propose that each one is equally real because neither one has happened yet. By not putting ourselves in a vulnerable position we feel that we are staying safe. As a consequence, we are not risking anything and by not risking anything, we may be risking more. Allowing myself to be vulnerable was, in fact, the most empowering thing that I have ever done. It helped me see the generosity of strangers in a new and different way. It made every experience richer and more meaningful. It made my relationship with Betty more purposeful. Many things that I thought I was attached to became irrelevant. Self-prescribed boundaries began to soften and change and in some cases - almost disappear. Probabilities became possibilities. When my focus became more internal and not external, is when my openness brought about changes that I never saw coming. I began to see myself in unexpected ways. I could see more of my own shortcomings; I saw parts of myself that I didn't like or didn't even know existed because I wasn't hiding anymore. I went to places both mentally and physically that I didn't realize I was capable of reaching as all of my perceived boundaries and convictions and limits were stretched and pushed and challenged. I was being open and showing myself who I really was. Every time that I reached a new place that I didn't think was achievable, I discovered more of myself, and every time I discover an undiscovered part of me, it makes it all worth it. How can we see how much control we are trying to assert if we never surrender it? How can we know our strengths if we don't befriend our vulnerabilities? By facing the questions that made me uncomfortable and allowing myself to be vulnerable, I exposed myself. When we give ourselves permission to be vulnerable is when the beauty and the magic of life begins to reveal itself to us. To be vulnerable is to experience life and every painful, frightening, imperfect, unique, incredible, and beautiful moment, not hide from it. To be vulnerable is to discover ourselves; to be vulnerable is to be human. Sure, there may be a whole lot to lose if we give ourselves permission to be vulnerable, but I believe there is a whole lot more to gain. To let go of everything for the guarantee of nothing is to experience freedom and more of this amazing experience that we call being human. I let go of everything for the guarantee of nothing and in the process of exposing myself I began to see the real me, not the person that I believed I was or the one that I wanted to be - but the genuine and true me. I began to discover myself. This was published on Elephant Journal and it can be viewed here - Pic by Cabin Fever Mercantile

  • What if…?

    Our "what if" questions can restrict us, keeping us preoccupied with worries, fears, and self-doubt, or our "what if" questions can keep us curious, unlock new doors, and nudge us toward exploring possibilities. If we come at them from a different angle and change the way we ask our questions, that will also change the answers that we get. What if I actually tried to do the things that I don't think I can do? What if stress is just pressure we don't want to deal with? What if solving the issue is not the point? What if there are other options that I did not consider? What if there are things I don't know about the things I already know? What if I thought in terms of possibilities rather than absolutes? What if I ran towards difficulty instead of away from it? What if fear is just a reaction? What if my compass is my discomforts? What if being in a hurry is a big waste of time? What if it's not that I'm unmotivated, what if it's that my environment is not conducive to change or growth? What if what I do now affects what I see next? What if, rather than trying to quiet my mind, I came up with better ways to use it? What if I discovered that everything that I thought I knew was wrong? What if we are both right? What if we are both wrong? What if this turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to me? Maybe it's not about finding the right answers, maybe it's about asking the right questions. Life can get interesting when the right questions are asked. What if we have been asking the wrong "what if " questions all along? Pic by Grant Krasner

  • Taking the Hard Road - At the Intersection of Probability and Possibility

    This may not be the road that I planned to be on. This may not be the road that I hoped or expected to be on, however this is the road I'm on. This is the road that I chose. Almost forty-seven months ago I left behind the world as I knew it. I quit my job, sold my home and everything in it and threw myself out into the world to see what would happen. I didn't make this leap into the uncharted alone, though. I had a very willing accomplice - my extraordinary partner and companion, Betty. At first there was a little bit of discord, as you could imagine, between Betty and I. We were out there on our own and we were vulnerable. Everything was a challenge and every fear and every problem was magnified. What could possibly go wrong? The truth is, this has become a mental and spiritual journey as much as a physical one. As with any great journey, it answers questions that, in the beginning, no one thought to ask. But to answer those questions, let alone hear them, I had to look within myself. Circumstances and people provided the questions, but I had to provide the answers. December 9, 2018 While camping in Chisos Basin at Big Bend National Park in Texas, we found ourselves in a conversation with an individual camping near us. We discovered that this person was, much like us, temporarily living in their minivan and traveling and exploring the country. This human being had a palpable peace and a calmness and a quiet confidence about them. There didn't seem to be an ounce of hubris in this person, unlike anything I had ever encountered. That brief exchange stuck with me. Two to three weeks later we were eating at a busy pizza place in Tucson, Arizona, when I noticed someone walk in wearing a backpack. They had a demeanor about them and a look in their eyes that I had seen before. It was evident that this person knew how to load and wear their pack, however, they also didn't quite look like a long distance backpacker. The Arizona Trail is an 800 - mile hiking trail that runs the length of that state and is very near to Tucson, but it was also December, which is not a normal time for hikers to be coming through the area. I was curious. I was intrigued. This patron went to the soda fountain so I took that opportunity to approach them in an attempt to appease my curiosity. I got next to them at the fountain and before I could say a word they began talking to me! This person - completely unprompted I might add - disclosed that they had sold all of their possessions and they were traveling the country by bus. They would stop and explore and sometimes work somewhere for a while until moving on to the next place. In their own words, "If I could give anybody any advice it would be to travel. See things and meet people. It's not like they think it is out there." After a kind and mutual farewell they were gone. I had barely spoken a word. Both of these people had a type of peace and calmness and a quiet confidence that seemed to emanate from every pore of their being. I would think of them often and wondered how they got to be that way. How did these two lives find an inner peace and a calmness far greater than anything I had ever encountered, either in myself or anyone else that I have ever met? These two brief encounters, as unremarkable as they appeared on the surface, had taken up residence in my mind for some unknown reason. Maybe it was because these two events took place as we were losing direction and hope on our journey. We were getting tired and the stress was mounting from all of the discomfort and the unceasing challenges that this new life presented. Maybe it was something else entirely. It took me a few months, but I eventually began to understand it. Little by little, what had bewildered me about these two encounters began to make sense - although to get to the answers I first had to understand the unspoken questions. There are times in life where we come to a crossroads. Major decisions and life events are, of course, potential turning points in our lives but how many other intersections do we rush through without even noticing? How many other moments in life are viable crossroads that we never even recognize? How many defining moments are missed only because we don't see them as such? Standing At the Crossroads Taking the road straight before us is the road to our wants and desires. To the right is the advice and the opinions and aspirations - and peer pressure - of our friends, family, and society. To the left is the road less traveled, the unknown road, or the hard road. This road is paved with challenges and fears. We spend so much time and energy avoiding this way, but maybe it's exactly where we should be going. We are always seeking or pursuing comfort and avoiding our fears, but it is in accepting challenges and facing our fears that we learn who we really are. We can break or fold under the pressure or we can lean into it and see what it has to teach us about ourselves. Take the hard road, the demanding road, the unfamiliar road - it's the road of discovery. On this road, challenges can't be sidestepped so they must be dealt with. It is where fears must be faced because they can't be avoided. It is where we can understand how to find comfort in the uncomfortable. It is where we can figure out how to pivot, adjust, and adapt to circumstances. It is where problems may cease to be problems, but just another thing to figure out. It's the road where possibilities can be seen, rather than limitations. When we can grasp the uncomfortable, instead of trying to elude it, we can give ourselves the ability to overcome challenges and every single moment can teach us something personal. On this road is where we can find ourselves. We should intentionally take the hard road more often because there is a certain level of peace that comes with being able to accept and even embrace the unknown. There is a certain calmness that takes over when we are constantly faced with different, intimidating, or always evolving events, yet we feel we have the ability to be able to navigate through them just fine. There is a certain quiet confidence that develops when - much like I'm certain these two people discovered - we feel like we are able to take whatever life throws at us, look it in the eyes, and peacefully and calmly and assuredly say, "It's okay, I got this." How many lessons do we miss while we're trying to avoid discomfort? Where are the crossroads and what do we do when we get there? I get it now. I found my answers. This was my third published article which can also be seen here - Pic by Grant Krasner

  • Why Do We Climb Mountains?

    Why would someone spend hours or days or weeks climbing a dangerous mountain? Why would someone spend months rowing a boat across an entire ocean or riding a bike across an entire continent or hiking over 2,000 miles continuously? Yes, people do these things. But it's crazy. It's selfish. It's suicidal. It's meaningless. What's the point? It's risking your life for nothing in return. Why do some people risk everything to climb the real and the proverbial mountain? I'm sure some people do it for the recognition or the notoriety. Some people do it just to be different and to stand out. But then there are the others… About two million years ago, as we understand it right now, humans began migrating out of Africa. The first ones that dared to venture into new and uncertain terrain, the ones that crossed oceans and mountain ranges and went into uncharted territories, were surely considered by their peers to be a bit crazy. Without the yearning for exploration and risk taking and pursuing our dreams we certainly wouldn't be where we are right now. The real trail blazers push the limits of human potential and show us how to make the impossible possible. In today's society there is a desire, a need even, to escape the rat race. There is a frustration with the material world, with dead-end jobs, with the work-eat-sleep-repeat cycle that we become trapped in. We may not have uncharted lands as we once did, but there are still unexplored territories waiting to be discovered within each of us. The human need for exploration is still there. Those that do the audacious and the unthinkable, the things that make many people just shake their heads and call them crazy, are the ones who will motivate and inspire others to never stop exploring their individual, and the human, physical and mental limits. This is why I think it's important to challenge yourself and push your limits. When you feel like you can't take another step but you keep going anyway. When you feel like one wrong move or one wrong step could be disastrous. When there's no one to depend on but yourself to get you out of a situation. When you feel like quitting but you don't. These are the moments when we gain incredible focus. These are the moments that can change perspectives. These are the times when we feel most alive and when we show ourselves what our true potential can be. These are the moments when we discover who we really are. But these moments can only be realized when we challenge and push ourselves. By pushing beyond our own self-created physical and mental borders we discover our real capabilities. So here's to the dreamers and the misfits and the risk takers and the adventurers. They are the ones that show us the strength of the human will and spirit. They are the ones who expand our ideas of possibilities. They are the ones that discover who they are. Without the daring and the adventurous and the crazy ones, without the dreamers, we would never know the potential, the possibilities, or the capabilities of this human experience. This is why we climb mountains. What's your mountain? Pic by Grant Krasner

  • The Stories We Tell

    If I told you a story would you believe it? Almost four years ago I intentionally upended my life and altered the course of my entire existence.  I consciously and deliberately changed the narrative. I changed my story. What one person may see as a crisis, another may see as a window of opportunity. What may be a problem to this person may only be a challenge to that person. Someone may see despair where another sees hope. Where one sees fear another sees comfort.  One person will see struggle and another will see a chance for growth. And on and on it goes. Our narrative of life comes from how we internally translate everything that we see and hear. It comes from the stories that we tell ourselves. What separates our species from all other species is the stories that we tell.  We like to think that we operate on logic and facts but…yeah, not so much. We are walking, breathing, stories and projections that function on emotions.  We make decisions emotionally and then our rational mind tries to justify the decisions with what we believe to be facts. We project our past experiences, our own inner thoughts, perceptions, and expectations onto everything.  It becomes our story and the stories that we tell ourselves become our beliefs, which is how we make sense of the world, how we make sense of life and death. And a well told story is much more influential on our beliefs than logic or facts. We've all had stories told to us that were true, yet we chose not to believe. We've all had stories told to us that were not true and yet we believed them. Just because we believe something does not make it true and just because we don't believe something does not make it untrue. As a result of the stories that we tell ourselves we can see patterns where there is really chaos. We can see meaning where there is really randomness. We see narratives where there are none. We see things in a way that fits into our story. How do the stories you tell yourself present themselves in the world around you? We can spend an entire life believing a story about ourselves.  One that we didn't write, one that was told to us that we simply accepted without challenging or questioning it. But it's never too late to change our story. I don't write to try to please anybody's sensibilities. I write my stories to share my thoughts and feelings and experiences. I write my stories to try to encourage inspiration or motivation,  to hopefully provoke thought. I write my stories to help me process and understand this new life that I now live. I write, and will continue to write, because I changed my story and I have a new story to tell. Pic by Grant Krasner

  • Finding Home: Meditations From the Road

    Once we began living on the road everything changed. Thoughts, questions, beliefs, ideals, where home was, all of it changed. Then I realized that I never left home. When we change course, when we change the direction of our lives, we often come up with new questions. We can also get completely different answers to the same old questions. The Beginning It's been more than three years since my girlfriend and I sold our home and everything in it and began our adventure and journey of living on the road - and we're still out here. Before we sold the house we had a few people suggest that we just rent it out so that we would have a place to return to when we were ready. A good idea, but we decided that it would ultimately diminish the challenge because the first time we got cold or uncomfortable or exhausted or struggled it would have been too easy to simply say, "eh, let's just go home." We wanted to remove every safety net possible, so we threw ourselves out there to see what would happen. Looking Myself in the Eye When we remove all of the noise and chaos from everyday life, when we strip life down to the bare essentials, things tend to become more clear. When we let go of everything we have and put ourselves in a world that can be uncomfortable and our limits are pushed on a daily basis, when there is nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide, we eventually end up looking ourselves right in the eye. In the past I used to run from myself, I fought myself, I was frozen in indecision with myself, and I have lied to myself. But out here I finally had to face myself. This tends to alter one's perspectives. Questions change, answers change, meanings change. The term "home" means different things to different people. To many it is a physical structure. It is where we believe we should feel peace and safety and comfort. To others home is where the heart is, whatever that may mean to them. There are many ideas of what home is, but the word has taken on a whole new meaning to me now. Home is not simply a building or a place; it is a state of mind as well as a state of being. Finding Home Of course, not everywhere is going to feel equally comfortable, and I still miss that house sometimes. But I have been at home as clouds of mosquitoes swarmed us on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana. I was home while camping with a group of hunters - complete strangers - in the middle of Georgia. I've been home while staying with a friend in the seemingly incessant winter rain and drizzle in southwest Oregon. I was home when we kept encountering closed campgrounds in Missouri and it was getting late and we didn't know where we were going to sleep that night. I was already home. Home has been camping among the saguaros in the Arizona desert or on an incredibly cold mountain in central California. It was in the occasional hotel room from coast to coast, sleeping in the truck at a truck stop outside of Las Vegas (among other places), and being exhausted and dirty after days on a trail or in the back country with no amenities. Home is also up in the Colorado mountains where we currently are. It is all of these places and all of those stops in between. I am already home because I never left home. The more we are at peace with ourselves and the more we are comfortable with ourselves, the more that anywhere we are can be home. To feel that we have to be in a particular physical place to have peace and comfort would seem to suggest that we haven't found it within ourselves yet. What if home is not merely a structure that we go to? What if it's a place we create within ourselves? When we stop trying to find it in other places or in other people we may just realize that it was there, within us, the whole time. Home is where we park it because that is where I am and wherever I am is home. Sure, home can be thought of as a building or a residence, but that's only a part of it. I have come to realize that home is not just a point outside of ourselves, some fixed destination. Being home is how we think and how we feel. It's a state of mind and a state of being. It's how we look at things. It's how we respond to things. It's in every single thing we do. We take our idea of home with us everywhere we go because we are our own home. To really be home is to be comfortable and at peace with ourselves. Home is wherever I am because my home is me. I am the comfort and peace. I am the destination. I am home. This is the second writing that I had published and it can be seen here - Pic by Coffee And A Map

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