Learning to Fly

AttitudeCourageCreativityHappinessLife

I used to think that I could fly. I also slept on the top level of a bunk bed, which–as you can no doubt imagine–was a risky and high-stakes combination. Fortunately, I emerged from this period of my life largely unscathed. In fact, I found that the best time to fly was when I was asleep and could soar anywhere I wanted in my dreams.

I was thinking today that perhaps, though I know that I am unlikely to successfully take to the skies without the assistance of an airplane, hot air balloon, or related contraption, I still yearn to fly. Wouldn’t it be amazing, I find myself musing, to swoop high and low alongside the eagles? To hover quietly beside the hardworking hummingbird, admiring the flowers? To skim over the surface of the ocean and dive in and out of waves, only to return–salty, refreshed, laughing–to the air, out of reach of the tossing water? read more

Thank You

AttitudeCourageHappinessLife

I have been feeling a bit negative recently. So. This post is a little gratitude power-up refuel session based on the knowledge that turning my attention to those people and things for which I am grateful helps me to shift my attention in a more positive direction. So here goes:

Thank you for supportive friends and family members who remind me of the beauty in the world.

Thank you for mentors and counselors along the way.

Thank you for all of the dogs in Alamo Square Park who remind me that running can be fun. read more

A More Perfect Union

LifeMorality and EthicsPolitics

For the past couple of years, I have not kept up too much with American politics. I read the paper some. And I vote. (Duh.) But I haven’t been too tuned in to current events beyond that.

Since the election, I have been thinking about my country a fair amount, and this past weekend I came across a new series of Penguin “Civic Classics” in a wonderful bookstore in Mendocino, CA. (If you’re ever in Mendocino, it’s called The Gallery Bookshop, and it’s right on Main Street. It’s great.) The series includes The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution in a single volume; Thomas Paine’s famous Common Sense; a compilation of a selection of The Federalist Papers; a collection of Lincoln’s speeches; a collection of assorted American political speeches; and a series of landmark Supreme Court Decisions. read more

Narnia and NaNoWriMo

CourageHappinessLife

I went to a NaNoWriMo catch-up session yesterday here in San Francisco. For those of you who are not familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place annually in November. Participants take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I have taken on this challenge.

Following this NaNoWriMo catch-up session, I am back on track to finish by November 30th, (I had gotten a little behind in the preceding days). I’m glad that I’m caught up; but I’m even more glad that I went to a group writing session. It was so much more fun than writing 3,000 words by myself. We wrote for 1.5 hour-long segments and took breaks in between to chat and talk about writing. It was great! read more

Work It

CourageLifeMorality and EthicsPoliticsWork

Today, I want to talk about work. Now, I’m not just talking about jobs. I’m talking about work in the sense of our life’s work, our vocation, or our calling. I find the concept of work to be complex, because I often equate it with anything that’s hard or that I don’t want to do. This came up for me because of the election. Now that President Obama has been reelected, I think that most people recognize that we have work to do as a country. A lot of it. And I think that most of us envision long and grueling hours of toil en route to a better world, or at least a more stable world. And it’s like: “Aw man. I really just wanted to watch TV.” Work becomes something that is the opposite of fun. read more

My Brain is Plastic

AnxietyCourageFearHappinessLife

In general, I think of myself as a pretty confident person. But every once and a while, anxiety strikes and I freeze up. It usually happens when I’m trying to do something that I consider very important, and when I am trying to do it well. And the anxiety makes it so that I am either paralyzed or I flub up on whatever it is that I am trying to accomplish. So basically, anxiety is a real drag.

I recently had a realization, however. It sprang in part from having watched Shawn Achor’s TED talk on positive psychology, and also from a conversation I had with a friend about the neuroplasticity of the human brain. Neuroplasticity refers to the fact that our brains are constantly changing throughout our lives due to factors in our environment, and (most importantly for my purposes) due to our choices and actions. The way we choose to act, and the way we choose to react, to our circumstances affects the synaptic connections in our brain. In other words, we are capable of contributing to major rewiring of our very own brains. And that, my friends, is nothing short of revolutionary. read more

Be Fierce and a Warrior

AttitudeCourageCreativityLifeWriting

The trouble is that I want to write great stories. This is a problem. If I just wanted to write stories, or words, or maybe a few sentences strung together into a paragraph or two or three, then it would not be a problem. Do you see what I mean? The pressure is paralyzing. I sit myself down in the morning with my cup of coffee to do my writing, and I think to myself:

“Okay, then. Time to write a great American short story. You have one hour. GO!”

It doesn’t work. Time and time again, I find that I write: read more

Today is a New Day

AttitudeHappinessLifeUncategorized

Today is a new day. That may seem a trite or obvious statement, but I don’t view it that way. I view it as nothing short of revolutionary. I view it as one of the more empowering statements on the planet. Yesterday happened. And it may have sucked. But today is a new day. Let’s start fresh, wipe the slate clean, and begin again.

Last night, after a discouraging day, I had a discouraging thought, and I sank into a discouraging mood. “I know what tomorrow will be like,” I thought glumly as I got ready for bed. “It will be just like today.” read more

Fear Less, Love More

AnxietyFearHappinessLife

Someone wise told me recently: “You are either moving toward fear; or you are moving toward love.”

I like this. And what’s more, I can tell the difference. I can feel it in my body, right in the pit of my stomach. When I am moving toward fear, when I am letting fear be my primary motivation, I feel: tense; stressed; and paralyzed. I feel, in short, absolutely awful.

When I am moving toward love, on the other hand, I feel an expansive sense of hope, I feel open and curious, and I feel supported by the world. It seems that everything goes my way, even when it doesn’t go the way I expect. read more

Going with the Flow

HappinessLifeUncategorized

I am often afraid to let myself be happy, because I think that I will simply stop being a productive member of society and I will lounge around eating peeled grapes and sipping piña coladas. This is actually very unlikely, given my temperament. I LOVE to work, when I can get out of my own way and stop stressing and worrying. Which brings me to my next point, which has to do with the concept of “ecstasy.”

The word “ecstasy” comes from the Greek ekstasis, which means to stand outside of. To me, the etymology of “ecstasy” is telling, because it emphasizes the fact that ecstatic states take us out of ourselves. Another way to interpret this is that we can jumpstart the process of becoming happier by standing outside of ourselves, by getting out of our own way. This resonates with my own experience, in that I find I am happiest when I am immersed in an activity that takes me away from everyday consciousness, when I give myself permission to pursue a beloved task wholeheartedly and with complete focus. This state is what renowned researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow. (You can watch his TED talk on “flow” here.) read more

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