miracles when it feels mundane

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miracles when it feels mundane

Its 5am, I lay awake in bed, for the muse has arrived. I hope I’ll be able to communicate this delicate idea. Let me know if you can relate:

I’ve always had this notion that to do awesome work, I had to also feel awesome. What that’s led me to is a pursuit of “feelings”, which can quickly turn into addiction, like a caterpillar into a moth. Ask any junkie. TV, crack, or cookies, it’s all the same. They are feeling chasers, regardless of the drug of choice.

During my radio years, for instance:

Live radio is unforgiving. The clock, nor the audience, care how your day has gone. At 14:06, the second the pre roll commercials are done, it’s on, ready or not. There were days I’d prepare well, show up early and have a good solid show. Sometimes I’d think I had an awesome show prepared and it would fall flat. While that was confusing and frustrating, even legendary teams lose on their home field sometimes. Though these losses were mystifying, an even deeper mystery lurks:

There were days when I felt completely uninspired. Tired. Empty. Nothing “to say”. I wasn’t physically ill and couldn’t justify calling in sick. I would go through the motions of packing up my laptop, walking out the door, and going to the studio. A mild, low level terror would begin to set in as the clock ticked into the upper reaches of the 13:00 hour.

Sure, I had a show plan, I did the work, but I just wasn’t “feeling it”. Looking over my show notes and the impending 120 minutes, I wonder if sherpas ever feel this way when looking at the nearly impossible peak as they begin their 578th ascent. I wonder if anyone is ever exempt from that deflating feeling of “Oh shit. This is going to be really, really hard, why do I do this to myself?”

(This, by the way, is but one of the reasons I adore the band RUSH). Want to see what eternal youth looks like? Go see these men in their 60’s pushing themselves as hard as they can, doing 3 hour long shows, of ever increasing intensity at an age when most dudes are happy to just cash checks and play golf).

I digress.

So many times on these “oh shit” days, A caller, a current event, an idea in my head would combine in the cauldron of the present moment to yield a moment of pure brilliance. I would walk out of the studio in complete awe at the unsuspected unfolding of inspiration.

These moments of unsuspected brilliance are not limited to the radio days. It’s happened in the Photo studio, in writing, and I once met a great love in similar circumstances. I didn’t feel like being there but showed up anyway, magic ensued.

This has me thinking a lot about feelings: of preparedness, of interest, of ability. Have you ever had the experience of doing your finest work on a day when you initially were sorely tempted to shirk?

I think it’s sensible to expect that under stress we rise to the level of our worst preparation. Good practice and preparation cannot be undervalued.

When I peel back the layers of my own experience, I realize that a certain level of my own feelings are just the weather of my own human condition. Rain or shine, they do not change the facts of that which is being built on the ground. The work – the practice, the preparation, always adds up. It creates something inside you that can be pretty easy to overlook.

What’s the point of this all? I want you to know that the little things you do every day to build yourself – the journaling. The meditation. The exercise. The rehearsals – they all matter, even if they feel mundane. ESPECIALLY when they feel mundane –

Because one day, you will find yourself in a place you don’t necessarily want to be in. You won’t feel your “best” but you’ll be there anyway. You will unceremoniously do the thing. You will go home, and soon realize that you just participated in a life changing moment. You will realize the value of showing up regardless of the weather of your silly little soul, and life will never be the same after that.

Ultimately, you will come to understand that the basic act of showing up is a self fulfilling prophecy of your (sometimes hidden) knowledge that you are worthy of that which you desire.

Much love-
Paul Duane

Bukowski, BYU, and Bad Cops

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”  ― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

This quote has fueled me through innumerable labyrinths of loneliness during my life. I hope it helps you, too.

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in remission

I have a meditation practice that I do every morning. I won’t bore you with the details right now, other than to say it’s super short, super easy, and most real practictioners of meditation would look at my ritual and call it “Meditation for Dummies”.   At any rate; this morning, the second my ass hit the ground for my daily meditation, a little voice popped into my head with a very specific literary reference.   When the little voice speaks, you gotta listen.  I pulled said book off of my shelf, opened to the specified chapter, and read the specified paragraph.  I don’t know if this is more for me, or if there is someone out there that needs to hear this, but here it goes:

The book is a collection of very old legends about the culture, wars, and spiritual traditions of people who supposedly lived on the American continent a few thousand years ago. I honestly have no idea if any of it really happened or not, but it also doesn’t matter to me. It’s the ideas in the stories that matter.  In this particular story,  a man named Enos was out hunting by himself, and started thinking deeply about things his father had taught him through word and example. The specific reference that the little voice told me to look up goes like this: ” I will tell you of the wrestle I had before God before I received a remission of my sins”.  Spoiler alert: he lives happily ever after.

“Remission” is an interesting word. In modern society, it’s most often used in reference to cancer, indicating that the cancer is shrinking.  Once you’ve got cancer, remission is the best thing you can hope for.  You take steps to make your body a place where nasty cells can no longer thrive; the tumor shrinks as the cancerous cells disappear. One of the few beautiful things about cancer is the deep gratitude that flows from the patient and the loved ones when the doctor announces, “You are in remission!”  There is nothing like the feeling of knowing you are on the right track.

remission

“Sin” is another interesting word, one we hear almost exclusively at church. I’m not a church going man, so I’m going to define “sin” based on my own life experiences: We all know, on some deep level, who we are and what we want to make our lives into.  (Some of us are lost in a fog and have a hard time connecting to that clear vision; that’s another discussion for another day). Sin is any self inflicted distraction that slows us from becoming the biggest, most beautiful, awesome version of ourselves.  To continue with the cancer analogy, sin would be like smoking 3 packs a day while also training for the Olympics (Unless you are Michael Phelps).

I don’t believe in “sin” in the churchy sense, nor do I believe that we must supplicate some angry, jealous God that he may forgive us of our “sins”. I’ve lived that paradigm, and it proved to be nothing but snake oil. Here’s the deal:

Here’s what hit me.  I struggle a lot with perfectionism syndrome. My life is wildly imperfect, but I also hold myself to a pretty fucking high standard. I am painfully aware of many of the tumors in my life. It can be very easy to just look at the tumors and get really bummed out about them.  This little story I read this morning shed some new light: As long as I’m in remission, I can be super stoked about life every day.  Even if I just kill 3 cancer cells, metaphorically speaking, that’s win – because I didn’t grow 3 cells – and tomorrow I’ll kill a few more. I think we all need to give ourselves more credit for the progress we are making. And by credit, I mean gratitude. I have found a lot of power in my life when I spend time each day meditating in gratitude for the good things that are happening. I’ll even kick into imagination mode and spend time meditating in gratitude for the things I intend to have in my life, though they may not be present yet. I just pretend they are, and deeply contemplate how awesome they are.  To the extent that anything excellent is happening in my life, I attribute it to this practice. Gratitude is emotional chemotherapy. This practice can be very difficult at times. Sometimes it makes you want to puke.  Just do your best, and do it every day. It’s been a real force for progress in my life, maybe it will for you, too.

Take a few steps each day to progress out of the shitty situations of your life, even if it’s tiny.  Most of all – go into your imagination and imagine sitting in a beautifully decorated, radiantly lit doctor’s office, imagine him walking in with his clipboard, shaking your hand, and saying, “Congratulations!! You are in remission!”

much love-

Paul Duane

devilhornshand

Open letter to an awesome girl

So, let’s say you are a beautiful, interesting girl.  Let’s say we just met.

Let’s say that we have a definite attraction between us.

Let’s also say that, although the attraction exists, I can see that we don’t have congruent long term goals / values.

Let’s say that we feel like getting in each others pants.

What would you want me to say to you?

Would you want me to say, “Look, I’m very attracted to you, but I think it’s only fair to say that I know that this is not going to last very long?”

Or would you want me to just keep that to myself and not spoil the moment?

Would you want me to ignore my intuition, and “just see what happens”?

Let’s say that I don’t realize this until we’ve been on  or 9 dates…. and THEN I realize that we really don’t have a future, because we have goals / values  that are not well matched in the long run.

Should we have that 10th date?  Because in the present – there is every reason for us to see each other again. We laugh, we entertain each other, we are attracted to each other… we have good times.  And, the sex is very good.

What would you want me to do?

…because, I’m confused about it, too.

Some day, I’m going to meet a beautiful woman that is a wise, sexy, vibrant, radiant dynamic human being, one whose goals and values are totally congruent with mine, and I am going to fall in love with her.  I want to be single when that day comes.

I also believe in the power and importance of fully living in the present. Putting things off in the present “because of the future” can be a crutch.  There is a fine line between planning prudently for the future and living in fear in the present.

We are in each others presence, presently. How may we most fully live what this moment has to offer, while honoring one anothers long term path?

 

 

Dreamers, Dragons, and Jesus

A few days ago I was at the book store helping my daughters pick out a birthday gift for their mother.  I started flipping through a book from the MTV reality show “The Buried Life”, and saw this:

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of thier minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible" - T.E. Lawrence

I so love quotes like this. They seem to soar up above the banality of every day life.  They make me feel like I’ve climbed onto the back of a marvelous and wise flying dragon, and that it has taken me for a ride far up into the sky where the perspective on everything is truly different.

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Why you will FAIL to have a great career

I’m speechless after hearing this speech. I believe this man is telling the truth.

“Do you ever really want to look at your spouse and your kid, and see your jailers?
You could have said, “Go for it kid, just like I did.”
But you won’t be able to say that, ’cause you didn’t. So you can’t.

…and so the sins of the parents are visited on the poor children.”

– Larry Smith