I have found that many of the systems and paths that we have carved out for us in life, or that we follow, can improve our skills but may sometimes dull our creativity or even cover up things in life that we feel truly passionate about.
We may learn that following a path and acquiring achievements and recognition from doing so is the kind of happiness that we think we need. We forget what it feels like to be truly ignited by something, or we sacrifice pursuing that as we consider it less important.
However, I don’t think there’s anything more important.
Sure, we have to make a living and that requires us to make sacrifices sometimes. But, we still are in charge of getting our priorities straight and creating a life for ourselves that may be the “road less traveled by” but allows us to be our best selves and give to the world and ourselves all of our potential.
And, this kind of awareness helps us to truly appreciate life and what we are here for. It brings us out of the mud and makes us feel alive again.
Adulthood doesn’t have to be dull, systematic, and dominated only by to-dos.
There should be an undertone of joy, even amidst all the ups and downs.
Learning How to Appreciate
In thinking about what “becoming alive again” REALLY means, I realized it boils down to one primary attribute: appreciation. You have to learn to appreciate what’s in front of you. Being grateful is talked about a lot these days. However, it’s not just a matter of turning on your “grateful” switch. It’s often not simply just an intellectual process.
It’s very much an awareness that unfolds with really seeing and understanding what comes together in our lives to make us healthy and happy. In other words, it might take some work.
For example, once I tuned in enough to my body to see how good it feels when I eat food with wholesome ingredients (not processed, no added sugar), that represented a very real kind of awareness that made me appreciate healthy food that is doing good for my body.
At the bottom of all of this is us. We have to learn to get in tune with our selves and the rest will follow.
Here are seven things I thought of that can help uncover that feeling of becoming alive again (note, most of these need to be done regularly and require effort and patience. But if done, they will make a huge difference in your life.):
Appreciate your food. Take a moment to think about where your food came from, be thankful that you have it, and chew slowly. Try to observe, and enjoy the process of eating. This took me a long time to do. But I noticed that I started naturally doing it in my times of highest awareness and clarity – like after spending time in nature.
Observe the cause and effect of all situations in your life. Take a look at what happened to lead you where you are today. If you are happy in your current situation in all regards, that’s great. If not, observe the circumstances that took place to lead you where you are today, and where you might be able to make changes to an entirely different path that will lead you to entirely different place.
Watch your mind. This one is the biggest one and I could write a book about it (and many have). But, your mind is the tool with which you create your perceptions and shape your life. Do not hold on to negative thoughts. We all get them, but practice letting them go. Observe and see how your perspectives might be telling you what you can or can’t do, or how life should or should not be. You don’t have to do anything here, but learn to watch.
Experience more. Try new things. Things that might connect you with others, or show you something about yourself. It could be as small as trying a new food you were hesitant to try. Dare to go outside your comfort zone. You’re not getting anything from being in it.
Start paying attention to gut reactions. Learn to say no. I always considered myself a pretty in-tune person, but I realized that just by habit I was often dismissing my own feelings on things. It can actually be a difficult process to differentiate between “this feels like something I should do, not that I’m excited to do,” if we’re always used to putting away our own feelings.
Evaluate your life goals. What kind of goals are you setting, and why? What are you looking to achieve, and why? Is it something that you feel will make you more fulfilled on a deep level, or is it something that you think you should be doing to get ahead? I remember thinking years ago that I just wanted to hit a $50k income goal and that that’s all the money I would need in life ever. Now that I’ve hit that income goal and grown a little wiser, I’ve realized it is so not about the money. We all need it and more is better, but I realized that thinking in terms of money was getting in the way of me focusing on creating a life that fulfilled me, regardless of the income. It is kind of a trick; you have to reverse engineer this thinking. You have to go after what you enjoy doing the most and focus on your talents, and not worry about if it will make you enough money or not. Things will then fall into place.
Set aside time for things in your life on a regular basis. Before bed, I made a sort of routine to light candles, turn off all electronics, read a book and drink tea. This has given me a happiness I didn’t have before. It allows my body to relax and contemplate the day. I’ve realized that constantly being distracted by electronics can create a stress response and not allow us to truly relax, even though you may not realize it at first.
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
— Lin Yutang
Do you feel a desire to simplify your life?
If you say ‘yes,’ then set an intention to reduce the demands, stimuli, interruptions and busyness in your life. We each have the power to do this – we simply have to begin to say ‘no’ to those activities that don’t directly serve what we want for our lives.
Everyone of this planet deserves to have some free time to think, relax and have fun. If you long for this, begin now to clear your plate and allow a new level of experience to happen in your life. Take charge. Eliminate time wasters. Make some decisions about what matters to you.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
— Hans Hofmann
“Of the many factors that shape our lives — geographical location, family dynamics, resources and influence, beliefs, self-concept, support systems, motivation, relationships, luck, karma or fate — our sense of self-worth is the single most important determinant of the health, abundance, and joy we allow into our life.
To the degree we doubt our worthiness, we limit or sabotage our efforts, and undermine our relationships, finances or health. Ever wondered, for example, why so many young actors, who gain sudden wealth, fame, and celebrity, go on to self-destruct with drugs and erratic behavior? Or why many able-bodied people live on the streets, reduced to begging for spare change. Or why some people continue to accept abusive mates or undesirable work conditions?
Once we understand the lessons of self-worth, we are in a better position to help such people — but first we must help ourselves.
No one else can give you an improved sense of self worth. Self-worth comes from doing what is worthy.”
Source: Dan Millman, Mastering the Path of the Peaceful Warrior
A Dialogue taken from my favorite book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman:
“I wondered about Joseph. “Is he a warrior, like you, Soc?”
“No one is a warrior like me,” he answered, laughing. “Nor would anyone want to be. Each man or woman has natural qualities. For example, while you’ve excelled in gymnastics, Joseph has mastered the preparation of food.’”
“Oh, you mean cooking?”
“Not exactly. Joseph doesn’t heat food much; it destroys the natural enzymes needed to fully digest the food. He prepares natural foods in a way you’ll soon see for yourself. After a taste of Joseph’s culinary magic, you’ll have no tolerance for fast food joints ever again.”
“What’s so special about his cooking?”
“Only two things, really—both subtle. First, he gives his complete attention to what he does; second, love is literally one of the primary ingredients in everything he makes. You can taste it afterwards for a long time.”
“Wait a minute, Socrates. Eating isn’t really a problem area for me. I’m slim, I generally feel pretty good, and my gymnastics proves I have enough energy. How is changing a few things in my diet going to make a difference?”
“Your present diet,” he said, glancing up through the sunlit branches of a beautiful tree, “may give you a ‘normal’ amount of energy, but much of what you eat also makes you groggy, affects your moods, lowers your level of awareness, and interferes with your body’s optimal vitality. Your impulsive diet results in toxic residues that have a long-range effect on your longevity. Most of your mental and emotional problems could be minimized by simple attention to proper eating.”
“‘How can changing my diet affect my energy?” I argued. “I mean, I take in calories, and they represent a certain amount of energy.’
“That is the traditional view, but it is a shallow one; the warrior must recognize more subtle influences. Our primary source of energy in this system,” he said, waving his arm to indicate the solar system, “is the sun. But in general, the human being–that’s you..
“‘Thanks for the concession.”
“… in his present state of evolution, has not developed the ability to make direct use of the sun’s energy; you cannot ‘eat sunlight’ except in limited ways. When humanity does develop this ability, the digestive organs will become vestigial and the laxative companies will go out of business. For now, food is the form of stored sunlight which you need.
A proper diet allows you to make the most direct use of the sun’s energy. The ensuing store of energy will open your senses, expand your awareness, and sharpen your concentration into a slashing blade.”
“All that is going to happen by eliminating cupcakes from my diet?”
“Yes–by eliminating cupcakes, and a few other odds and ends.”
“One of the Japanese Olympic gymnasts once told me that it’s not your bad habits that count, but your good ones.”
“That means your good habits must become so strong that they dissolve those which are not useful.” Socrates pointed ahead to a small cafe on Shattuck near Ashby. I’d walked by there many times without really noticing it.
“So, you believe in natural foods, Soc?” I said as we crossed the street.
“It’s not a matter of believing but of doing. I can tell you this: I eat only what is wholesome, and I eat only as much as I need. In order to appreciate what you call natural foods, you have to sharpen your instincts; you have to become a natural man.”
“Sounds positively ascetic to me. Don’t you even have a little ice cream now and then?”
“My diet may at first seem Spartan compared to the indulgences you call ‘moderation’, Dan, but the way I eat is actually filled with pleasure, because I’ve developed the capacity to enjoy the simplest foods. And so will you.”
Low-carb diets greatly reduce your blood levels of insulin, a hormone that brings the glucose from the carbs into cells.
What does insulin do?
–One of the functions of insulin is to store fat.
This is why many believe that low-carb diets work so well, is that they reduce your levels of this hormone.
-Insulin hoards sodium, so high-carb diets can cause excess water retention.
Cutting carbs reduces insulin and your kidneys will start shedding any excess water, so it is common for people to lose 5-10 pounds of water weight in the first few days of a low-carb diet.
Weight loss will slow down after the first week, but this time the fat will be coming from your fat stores.
One study compared low-carb and low-fat diets and used DEXA scanners (very accurate) to measure body composition. The low-carb dieters lost significant amounts of body fat and gained muscle at the same time.
Studies also show that low-carb diets are particularly effective at reducing your belly fat, which is the most dangerous fat of all and highly associated with many diseases.
The “Low-Carb Flu”
If you’re new to low-carb eating, you will probably need to go through an adaptation phase where your body is getting used to burning fat instead of carbs.
This is called the “low-carb flu” and is usually over within a few days. After this initial phase is over, many people report having more energy than before, with no “afternoon dips” in energy that are common on high-carb diets.
Adding more fat and sodium to your diet can help with this.
Tip from Balancing Your Health: Daily carb intake can sneak up on you quickly! Track down your carb intake for a while so you can get used to what you can eat on a daily basis that won’t knock it up too high. Also, if you’re really trying to cut, count unrefined sources of carbs (for example carbs in a banana) the same way you would refined carbs; don’t give yourself an extra allowance of carbs just because they are from natural sources.