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After the incessant nudging of my mother, I’ve started reading “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown. If you haven’t heard her TEDtalk about vulnerability, you should check it out. While I’m only at the beginning of the book, there are a few concepts emerging that I wholeheartedly agree with. I expect to finish the book by next week and I’ll write more about it then.

It amazes me that vulnerability isn’t celebrated. Being totally authentic should be recognized as a great feat of courage. To be real, you must be vulnerable. You open yourself to ridicule when you express your ideas. This openness is necessary for living life fully.

There isn’t a lot to catch up on, I just wanted to talk briefly about Brené’s book before I went to bed. I hope you are all having a wonderful night!

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No more “Liking”!

A few months ago I wrote about my lack of satisfaction with Facebook. I felt that people weren’t communicating enough and that we were becoming a more passive society. So I took a two week hiatus to figure all of this out. I knew that social media was becoming lonely but I couldn’t narrow it down to why.

When I returned I had some insight. I declared that I wasn’t going to “like” anything from then on. I thought maybe social media was becoming lonely because we stopped having meaningful communication with one another. “Liking”, “favoriting”, “starring”, all remove meaning from how we talk. Actually, we don’t really talk anymore, we just “like”.

This isn’t to say that people don’t comment on my posts, it’s just annoying to get 20 or 30 likes but words. It’s easy in our society to just throw support out there. Clicking a button to “like” is incredibly easy and there isn’t a commitment. You can show support for a picture someone posted without having to write anything down.

That’s where the flaw is: by clicking the “like” button, we avoid actually interacting with one another. Every time I logged on Facebook, I would have a few notifications. After I clicked the status bar, it would show me that all of them were “likes”. There’s no way to respond to “likes”, there’s no conversation.

Maybe it’s only me, after all, I did move away from my friends, but I can’t help but feel like social media is supposed to be more about conversations. It’s about tossing an idea out there, like how a person is feeling or what’s going on, and then chiming in with friends about it. I don’t really care if my friends support me with “likes”, I just want to communicate in a different way.

So it’s been two months since I’ve “liked” anything on Facebook and I really do feel like I’ve solved part of the problem. When I find a status that I normally would have “liked”, I choose to comment on it. This helps start conversations and interaction. “Liking” doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s impossible to comment on everything that I was liking before, so if I don’t feel like commenting, I don’t feel the need to click “like” either. My contact with people is more meaningful because I don’t continuously click “like”.

While maybe this doesn’t mean anything to you, I want to issue you a challenge. It’s simple but it will take a little while to get used to. I challenge you to stop “liking” anything on Facebook for one week. Seven days isn’t a long commitment but it teaches you enough. Usually the first two days are difficult because it’s so simple to click “like” that you don’t even think about it. After that, it’s easy.

Instead I encourage you to comment to replace “liking”. It doesn’t have to be long or anything but just try it for one week. You’ll find that you start more conversations and have a better time on Facebook. After you complete this challenge, send me a message or write on my wall on Facebook, I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

Happy social media-ing and I wish you the best!

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P.S. What’s with “liking” comments mid-conversation? I get it if you say something really funny or profound but why? I don’t understand… 0-0

Satori

Like in the book “Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind” I occasionally experience moments of satori. The word satori translates into “seeing one’s nature” or “seeing things as they truly are”. More or less it means having an enlighten experience. These moments are characterized by feelings of great clarity or oneness.

While sometimes they are unexplainable, they happen most during rigorous Zen practice. After manually opening one’s mind, a person can glimpse into their true nature and see reality as it is. I feel like this past year has been a huge exercise in training my mind. Last August was a lesson in presence, January through March was a lesson in attachment, and these past few months have focused primarily on emotion.

Cumulatively I feel like I’ve started to open past the mind and I feel like I’m starting to resonate with life. I don’t have the exact words to describe it but I felt like documenting today on this blog. It isn’t much but each journey can only be taken one step at a time. This year has been long and it’s definitely taught me a lot about myself.

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23/31 Blogtober

Gentleness and Joy

Yesterday’s post was about being part of a painting, or a greater picture. I felt connected with the world and at peace. That emotion extended into today and there is a gentle calmness in my life. Every moment feels like when you wake up in bed and just relax. There is no commitment to move or to hustle through the day – you can just lay there, in a blissful daze of appreciation.

While I haven’t completely “Walden”, I’ve heard this quote many times and yearned for the same joy that it describes. For the first time in a long time, I feel like this:

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal- that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself.” -Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Today I received a package of books in the mail from my mother. Occasionally she sends boxes of books and magazines that she thinks that I would enjoy. This pile made me roll over in joy. Each book seems beautiful and I can’t wait to start reading them.

Tomorrow I’ll write a review of another book that just arrived in the mail! Hope you are all having a wonderful second day of blogtober!

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Creative Contradiction

Mathew Schuler wrote on his blog about a book called: “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The book discusses creativity as the writer interviews 91 different artists. The resultant idea is that creativite people are full of contradictions. One of these contradictions that Schuler discusses is:

Most creative people tend to be both introverted and extroverted. Many people tend toward one extreme or the other, but highly creative people are a balance of both simultaneously.

This resonate with me because I feel caught at these two extremes; people are wonderful to be around but I don’t always want to be with them. Visiting a coffee shop or an airport is great because I’m at that in-between state. I’m introverted because I’m not interacting but I’ve extroverted because I’m near them.

It’s difficult to explain this to a person who hasn’t felt it. There are days that I need to go out but it isn’t to interact with people. It’s simply to be around them. Energetic environments motivate me but for some reason interaction with people is draining.

Even further I’m incredibly outgoing if I’m in a group of two. Add more than four and suddenly I’m introverted. Talking with one other person is great but I don’t know what to talk about if there are more people.

These contradictions are unusual and I cannot explain why I feel them. They are a huge part of who I am but yet there are two opposites inside of me: introversion and extraversion. Why do I need people but need independence? It’s bizarre and baffling.

Mathew’s post is interesting and I suggest you check it out. It’s titled “Why Creative People Sometimes Make No Sense” and you can find more information about the book I linked above. Creativity is such an odd and interesting topic! What contradictions do you experience in yourself?

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P.S. Mathew B. Crawford (“Shop Class as Soul Craft“) is releasing a new book next March titled: “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction“. I can’t wait for it! If you haven’t read his first book, you need to go to the library and check it out now!

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I want to apologize for this past week of posts, it really hasn’t been my best. The week has been emotionally and intellectually chaotic. It’s funny, in retrospect sometimes these are our greatest moments. Only after the event can we look back and laugh.

Right now I’m working on the very beginnings of a book. It’s still in idea/conception form but I feel obligated to write and I think a book will be the product. Unfortunately this 365 has been suffering as I focus more mental energy into book-writing.

If you’re a friend on Facebook, I’m still on hiatus until next Monday. I’ll have more to write about that later. For now I must get some sleep!

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“AWOL on the Appalachian Trail” by David Miller

Flipping through the last pages of a well-liked book is like coming to the end of a great friendship. Both people and books take you places and make you experience the world in a different way. When I reached the end of “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail”, I felt as though I had hiked the trail with him and I was sorrowful that it had to end.

AWOL’s journey resonated with the wanderer inside and, if only for a moment, made me escape the humdrum of my daily life. In 2003, David Miller gave up his day job to spend five months grueling up the eastern United States. The Appalachian Trail (AT) is over 2,000 miles long and goes into 14 states.

When David got on the path, he took the trail name “AWOL” to represent the abandonment of his stable job. Perhaps also to show the escapism involved with hiking a 6-month long trail. He went AWOL from his life and set course for Maine.

This book is heavily descriptive and lingers on the what it’s like to live in the woods. It doesn’t romanticize hiking in heavy rain or sleeping in uncomfortable shelters but it creates an enticing environment where AWOL ventures into the wilderness. He encounters bears, snakes, handfuls of foot injuries, and a myriad of hikers. Nonetheless it is an interest read.

I highly recommend this for anyone who is caught up in the 9-5. Similar to Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, AWOL explains aspects of modern life that we seem to forget. He writes about the openness of hikers, and the community that he quickly finds himself immersed in.

After spending two weeks reading this book I’ve decided that I want to hike the AT. It may be a while before I do but it’s a journey I want to take in my lifetime. Again, I highly encourage you to read this book.

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Word Count

Last year I earned a reputation as a blog-pusher, which is a person who enthusiastically attempts to get others to blog. I fell in love with writing online, so naturally I spread the passion to friends. I spent a lot of time asking friends to start a blog and usually I was met with much resistance. Often I heard the excuse, “I don’t know what I would write about”.

After writing for eight months, I still don’t know what I’m writing about. Some weeks I write about artists, and other weeks I review things that I like. There are even days that I blog about about blogging (like today!). However, I can always push out 100 words a day for this project. Anyone can.

When this project was created, the minimum standard set for myself was 100 words a day. Like others, I thought that it would be too difficult to write. I feared that eventually the words would run out and there’d be nothing left. Today I installed a plugin to read how many words have been published since December 2013, when I began this blogging project.

I have published 111,117 words. According to Wiki, a common thriller has between 60,000 to 80,000 words, and a mystery could have 100,000 words. While writing a book requires much more organization, I feel like blogging has shown that I have the capability to write over 100,000 words.

This fear that you don’t have enough to write about is completely irrational. It may take time but you can fill a page. If you did a project like this and wrote the bare minimum, you would finish with 36,500 words. Even that is incredible and a low commitment! You just have to spend time building it and cultivating it.

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Creativity is a Habit, Cultivate it!

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Earlier this week I wrote about Twyla’s book “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life“. It’s my second time reading it and I really enjoy the writing style, the content, and beauty of the book. The design is incredibly pleasing and I couldn’t help but pick it up again.

In one of the chapters, titled, “Rituals of Preparation”, Twyla explains how creativity is a habit that we form rather than a gift from the gods. People used to believe that inspiration was divine, coming from the heavens when the gods granted it. Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat.Pray.Love.) has talked about this in one of her TED talks. While society no longer believes in Greek (or Roman) gods, we still linger to this idea that inspiration is external, generating from outside of us.

Twyla argues that inspiration comes from routine, and, thus, is created inside each person. She uses herself as an example, explaining that each day she wakes up at 5:30am to go to the gym. By establishing this regularity, she’s able to routinely create. Rather than waiting for a lightning-strike of ideas, she’s preparing herself to do her art. In this way, Twyla believes creativity comes from hard work rather than spontaneity.

Her book elaborates further but I’ll leave that for you to read.

To test this for myself I’ve started my routine. Working at night has altered my sleep schedule and I find myself sleeping through most of my free time. This week I’ve decided to change that and start going to bed immediately after I finish work. By going to bed a few hours earlier, I can get up at a decent hour.

When I roll out of bed in the morning, I begin the day by running 2 1/2 miles. This kick-starts my metabolism and jolts me awake. After finishing I have a big breakfast and sit down to write (much like I’m doing now). This simple routine improves the quality of blog posts, my mood throughout the day, and the amount of time I have for the activities I love. I find that I don’t feel pressured to write (like I do at 2am), and I can think clearly.

Nothing in this process directly generates inspiration or creativity, however I feel like I have an overabundance of both. It’s the accumulation of these tasks that support the artist inside. By doing the same activities daily, I wear into them. This is why writing daily, or a 365 project, works so well: you build the habits of creating each day.

When I combine the artistic task (writing) with other routines (waking up early, running), I build a system where my mind understands when to be creative. I get up, go for the run, and, internally my head goes “it’s time to create!” Then the creative juices flow and bam!, here we are.

While today is only day two of this experiment, I feel like I already agree with Twyla Tharp: creativity comes from hard work. There will be moments where you feel struck by lightning with new ideas but you can’t wait for the lightning to strike. You have to work for an environment that cultivates your creativity.

Again, I highly recommend this book. Look I’ve already linked it three times!

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Over the past few days my building has been repainted and, while doing the job, they disconnected the public WiFi. I’m updating the last three days of posts as we speak!

 

Growing Up With Books

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Yesterday I suggested 5 Books That I’m Reading and I wrote a bit about how my parent’s house was always filled with books. As a child, there never was a shortage of things to read. In the crawl space of their house there was a section of children’s book, piles of National Geographic magazines, and anything else that would interests me.

Before I left home last year, I counted 17 full-sized bookcases worth of text. This was a rough estimate because some books were stacked in the closet, on tables, and in man-build (or should I say Dad-built?) bookcases.

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This surplus of books taught me how to quench my thirst for knowledge as a kid. If we were talking about anatomy in school, I could go home and rest assured that I probably had a book on the subject. If I wanted to know more about acupuncture, I can think of three books off the top of my head that focus just on meridians. When I craved to learn, I found that there were enough books to satisfy my curiosity.

While many of you are looking at these images and noting how disorganized they are, I figure that placing all the books on shelves would remove the constant exposure to them. If we placed all of them into one “library room”, then we could go about our day without ever seeing a book. That constant exposure as a child made me comfortable with reading. Whereas many kids go to school and see books as homework or just plain work, I saw them as a part of my life.

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That life evolved into one of wonder and curiosity, where anything was possible. Looking across my own shelves, I’m balanced between biographies and “how-to…” books. I’m fascinated by other people’s lives and by learning how to do new things. Exposing me to those books at a young age taught me that I can learn anything and lead any life that I want. If Maura O’Holloran could study Zen Buddhism in Japan, then I could too. If Elizabeth Gilbert could travel around the world, so could I!

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Instead of watching television, I found that I’m able to take more information away from a book. Whereas a documentary talked about a person’s life, a biography felt like I was living it. Don’t get me wrong, I watched a lot of television as a kid, but as I’ve grown up, my passion for reading has increased. Usually this is backwards, we’re interested in reading when we’re young, then when we become adults, we watch television because it “takes up less time” and is “more entertaining”.

This is dangerous because we don’t usually watch one episode of a show. Instead we end up consuming more time watching television than if we were to have read. As an adult, I don’t even own a TV. Twyla Tharp writes in her book “The Creative Habit”, that she loves watching movies but she can’t watch them. If she does, she’ll lose her productivity from watching television all day. Being exposed to books taught me to grab for the binding rather than the remote, which has made me a more productive person.

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I write this post because I owe my mother gratitude for filling her house with books. I cannot express how much my life has been enriched by being surrounded by so many wonderful stories. Simply put, the person I am today was built from a coffee table of books that were always changing and always being read. Thank you Mom for filling your house with books.

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