Lessons from The Rhythm of Life

I have been reading a book titled The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly which a dear friend recommended to me. The gist of the book is that we should dedicate our lives to becoming the best version of ourselves. Matthew Kelly has sold over 40,000,000 copies of his books in 30 different languages. I thought that to have such a following, he must certainly have a few good things to say, and indeed he does. He explains that to be the best version of ourselves, we have four basic types of need–physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. These needs he calls “secondary” needs, because it is assumed that the basic needs of food and shelter and air and water are satisfied. He makes the very good point that we are here to thrive, not only to survive. Once the basic requirements for survival are satisfied, we move on to our secondary needs, which are the things we should pursue in our lives to become the best versions of ourselves.

A lot of what he says resonates with me, and I felt good that my life in general reflects the basic values and priorities that the book recommends. But I have been suffering from a physical malady over the last several weeks that is causing me some concern and that is the result of my somewhat lazy and gluttonous behavior. Early in January, I caught a mild virus that caused me to develop laryngitis. I kept up my routine as usual, expecting that it would go away, but it did not. Now we are on the cusp of March, and so it has been about seven weeks since I first noticed the symptoms, and they continue. My behavior has been to pursue superficial wants and cravings and habits, and to ignore what is truly important to me, which is my physical well being.

The second lesson that really struck me concerns universal emotional needs and how these are interrelated to our physical well being. I have always strived to develop a very independent nature, where my own life and self image are not dependent on other people. I have been resistant to the idea that we “need” acceptance from others. I thought of this as a weakness and a failure to know my own self. Even in my last post I mentioned that I had the emotional maturity of a seven year old in that I see in myself a desire to elicit the approval of others. One of my spiritual teachers in the doctrine that I personally follow has helped me to persevere even when faced with opposition from others. I do happen to be highly effective in life, and I do get a lot of things done, and this often creates conflicts. My Padrinho teaches me that “dogs do not bark at park-ed cars”. The point is that people who are accomplishing things and bringing about change become targets of criticism.

My own work in this area was to learn how to accomplish my life’s work without causing unnecessary upset. I would focus on being considerate and trying to see how my actions impacted others, and also to focus on communication and developing consensus. I learned I could be more effective when I listened to everyone. But at the same time, as anyone has served on a large committee knows, you can’t make everyone happy. So there is a balance between listening and being considerate on one hand, and moving forward and accomplishing things on the other.

I would seek humility as a refuge in these situations, but I would not let the negative attention that I attract from time to time deter me from my purpose. And so it was that I adopted a rather stoic attitude of not “needing” the approval of other people. The Rhythm of Life gave me some very new insight into this area. The book says that to become the best version of ourselves, we need relationships with other people. Other people and our good relationships help us to have clarity and help us to become the best we can be. They also give us the opportunity to serve.

And so it is that we have all kinds of different relationships. We have superficial and transactional relationships and we have more intimate relationships. The author points out that we have to share our lives with others in measure to the relationship. So for instance, if I have a bad day and unload my baggage on someone who is not in close relationship with me, I will perhaps feel somewhat better for having articulated my story, but if I do not have a sufficient level of intimacy in my relationship with the other person, then this will be seen as over sharing, and will alienate them. Instead of feeling heard and understood, I will just feel awkward and embarrassed.

On the other hand, and here I am about to return to my throat, if we do not share enough with people who we are intimate with, then it seems like we are distant and cold, and this can, over time, impair the relationship and leave us feeling hollow and frustrated. In the case of my throat, I do have some fear around the situation. I don’t think I’m alone in that my imagination can start to run a little bit when I have a physical ailment. I have a tendency to stick my head in the sand and to not want to talk about it. And I hate going to the doctor, because I’m always afraid they are going to actually create some terrible condition, like Schrödinger’s cat, by looking for it. This might be a little bit of an aside, but I do believe that consciousness forms our material reality, and so by looking for something we actually create it. So if I have a problem with my throat, and I’m afraid that I might have scar tissue on my vocal chords, the last thing I want to do is “open the box” and find the dead cat. If I can ignore it long enough, maybe it will just go away.

And so for me, to speak to someone about a medical condition is a very peculiar dynamic. It requires real intimacy for me to want to reveal a medical condition, but more than that, it requires that the person I am talking to not to have a reaction of wanting me to go to the doctor. I will use my mother as a good example here. If I talk to my Mom about a headache, she’s going to want me to get an MRI. So I don’t talk to her about it at all.

Intimacy is new topic for me. I always have equated intimacy with sex, but this book has a much more nuanced explanation of the need for intimacy. Intimacy is revealing the true nature of ourselves to another person. This takes a lot of trust and it takes a lot of courage. And sometimes it even takes a degree of detachment from our personal lives.

Even this blog explores the boundaries of intimacy. I am talking about things that are personal to me, and it’s funny because there is a small audience of people reading this (thank you). Some part of me wants to reveal more about my personal life here, but at the same time, I am aware that this will become part of the permanent record, and so someone who is not acting in my best interest might in the future do some background checking on me, and come across this in an adversarial context, and then I will be eating my words. So when I write here, I have to write in a public voice about personal matters, and so they are all discussed at a level of general applicability. For instance, I can say here that my habits are exacerbating my laryngitis, but I do not want to get into detail about my personal bad habits in this public forum.

So this intimacy requires confidentiality as well. Several of the people I love in my life have come to my aid. I promised that I would go to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor if my throat did not improve before we return to Miami from Telluride. Today I went ahead and made that appointment. I have also developed a list of self care practices to see if I can heal this myself before that appointment. These were also recommended to me by people I love and trust, such as gargling salt water and avoiding anything that will cause my throat to become dry and irritated. It’s these people who love me enough and care about me enough that want me to be around for a long time who are causing me to take the right actions to “be the best version of myself” in terms of my physical health.

So there are several different types of intimate relationships that we all “need” to become the best version of ourselves. There is our intimate partner in the traditional sense of the word. And beyond this we need a handful of other intimate relationships with people who truly know us for who we are. These relationships help us to become the best people that we can be, and in turn, it is our joy to reciprocate and help them to become the best versions of themselves too.

I am very fortunate to have my wife and family a handful of these true friends in my life. These are the relationships I really need to be the best version of myself and to fulfill my purpose here. On top of that we have so many more superficial relationships that fit together with our lives and we exchange good with each other, but at a lesser degree of intimacy. I pay to get a haircut and I chat with the stylist, and I get a good haircut and some humorous conversation. Maybe we exchange a few treasures, but it is a level of public persona that engages in these interactions.

We all have so many masks that we need to get through our days. I have the expert in aviation mask, I have the financial analysis mask, and the attorney mask, and I wear these when I go out in public. Then there is the level of people who know me a little better than that. They see my devotion to nature, they hear me play guitar and see me play with my little puppy dog. This is the realm of personal relationships. And then there is a small handful of people who we share our true hearts with.

For me, this case of laryngitis, coupled with this brilliant book, has really taught me an important lesson. It’s to expose something I don’t like about myself to those who I truly love, and then to accept their concern as help instead of criticism. And so I am going to gargle my salt water, and I’m going to go the the ENT and I’m going to keep lozenges in my pocket, and refrain from whispering, and avoid anything that causes dryness of the mucous membranes. I’m going to do all these things so I can be the best I can be physically. And this is really something that I truly want, because I recognize that my health is fundamental to my overall quality of my short life on this awesome planet.

I would also like to offer a prayer of peace and forgiveness for all the suffering in our world right now. May our universal celestial mother cover the world with a mantel of peace.

Peace.

Gen Z Free from Fear – One Simple Shift In Consciousness that Makes All the Difference.

Dear Gen Z – Do you feel it in your bones that you are being manipulated with fear? There are two fears I see being used to manipulate young people. They are the fear of being alone and the fear of being financially destitute. “Society” manipulates you with both of these fears, and if you can recognize this and shift your consciousness, you can take back control over your life. This article will share some things I learned about getting by in the world. If you want to scan ahead you can. If you have some time, you can read along.

When I was coming of age the big fear was for survival. You had to go to school and get really good grades so you could go to the best college (better than your friends), and then you could get the best job and the best house and the best car, and then at 65 you could retire wealthy and move to Naples, FL where nothing worse can happen to you than being stuck in a long line for a table at the Outback Steakhouse. I ran that race from 1988 to 2013, and now I’d like to see if I can help someone else save a couple decades.

The message we were fed told us we had to conform to all these requirements or else we’d end up living in a cardboard box. Scary right?

So the first mental shift you can make is…

  1. If you learn to be of service and to live simply, then you can do whatever you want and go anywhere.

My dog literally taught me this lesson. He’s perfectly happy wherever we go, as long as he has his doggy bed. It really does not matter if we put it in the back of a van, or in a tent, or in a crappy Air BnB or in a fabulous house. He does not have a mind full of ideas about what he should want, or that something else would be better. What makes him happy is being able to run around in the fields and streams of Colorado, or down the beach in Miami, or just around the neighborhood. And this is really a profound shift in thinking you can make to free you from the fear of scarcity. If you live simply, the world is abundant.

What you do have to do is construct a sustainable (which means debt free) life for yourself. The most important thing you can do to create a sustainable life is to live very simply. To be sustainable you have to “make ends meet,” and there are two ends. One “end” is what you produce or create in the world, and the other is what you consume. Society wants you to consume a ton of stuff, and to make that sustainable, you have to earn or produce or create the same quantity. So the first “end” you can work on is the living simply side of the equation. If you can learn to be happy with a metaphorical doggy bed, then you can put it anywhere and do whatever you want. It’s only when your needs get too big that your life becomes a chore.

Think about it. What is the difference between a canoe or a paddle board and a huge yacht? Well sure, a yacht you can fill up with friends and party, and you can impress a bunch of people on Instagram. But really, 90% of the benefit of the boat is access to the water. You get 90% of that with a kayak or even better, a small sailboat. It’s better for the environment and it’s actually a lot more fun than being in a living room on a giant yacht. And you can make real friends who like sailing or paddle boarding. Can you meet a lot of other friends with big yachts (do you want to??)

I was reading an article today about people in the Hamptons fighting over the East Hampton Airport operations. The Billionaires fly over 200 flights a day during the peaks in an out of this Northeast Beach Town, and the only-multi-millionaires object the noise of helicopters and jets screaming in an out every day–it’s the sound of people richer than they are coming to town! They have lawyers and arguments and all kinds of aggression. Does that make any sense at all? People who have everything fight over nothing. What happened to the beach itself? It has been forgotten. Now it’s all about social standing and who has the biggest mansion.

Not all wealthy people are like this mind you. There are plenty of wealthy people in Telluride Colorado. Super wealthy people even. But you would never know it. They walk in town for coffee. They hike. They ski. They enjoy the outdoors. These are super smart, highly successful, and very happy people. And what makes them so much happier than those folks fighting over the Hampton airport (who mostly go to Aspen), is that they are in touch with simplicity.

I am very blessed to be in a position in life where my material needs are abundantly satisfied. What makes me and my wife happy is the freedom to engage in the simple pleasures of hunting for mushrooms in the forest, or walking the dog, or cooking a good meal with friends. We make our own bed, we clean our own kitchen, we cook our own meals, we do our own shopping, and we enjoy these simple pleasures. YOU have the right to enjoy simple things–chop wood, carry water is the zen principle here.

Many of our very best friends are materially not wealthy at all. But spiritually they are so rich. One of my very good friends maintains properties in Telluride. He knows every trail on the mountain. He’s 6-4 maybe 180 pounds, and he is in ridiculously good shape and healthy. I met him when we first bought our place in town there. I remember thinking, oh my, that’s the kind of shape you have to be in to get the best out of Telluride. He is of tremendous service and his needs are simple. His life is a model that you won’t see in school, but it’s one you can easily implement for yourself.

And that gets us to the other “end,” which is what your produce or create. The basic idea here is to simply learn to be of service. If you show up on time, have a pleasant demeanor, and if you can be of some utility, then you will be welcome anywhere. You will get a job anywhere, and you will start meeting people who enjoy being in your company. Before you know it, you will find yourself being pulled into an awesome life. One step at a time.

You see if your needs are simple and if your goal is truly to be of service, you can do that by doing something you love to do. Let that sink in… what you do to make your way can be something you actually enjoy doing, as long as your needs are simple.

Let’s say you like to build things out of wood. You could be of service in carpentry. If you show up in Telluride and tell anybody you are a carpenter, and then you show up on time and treat people honestly, you will have no shortage of work to do. If your needs are simple, you can cherry pick your clients so that you work with nice people, and you can get by on a reasonable work schedule that gives you plenty of time to ski or travel or do whatever you want. I know people who set up websites, who teach English in Brazil, who do photography projects, who clean houses. It’s not hard to find opportunities to serve if you truly want to serve.

People who have simple needs and who are of service, find little niches to live in. This is such a great way to spend your 20s before you have kids and a family and a lot of responsibilities.

Society will tell you that you need to accomplish its prescription of goals and agenda or else your whole life will be a failure. But the bargain they propose… work your ass off in a job you hate to pay for a big house you are never in, so that you can retire with a 401K when you are 65… that whole dream is an illusion.

Life is a grand adventure for those who open up to it. Freedom from fear is the first step. I hope someone out there finds this helpful.

Peace.

Health Wealth Relationships and Spirt – 2022

Here I am on the first day of the new year, with a blank screen in front of me and yet another opportunity to write. I did have a blog for a few years that I wrote with a friend, and that was fun while it lasted, but we kind of ran out of steam, and the time between posts started to increase, and then it just became a forgotten correspondence between a couple of people who were close for a time when the universe brought them together. Now, as the currents have shifted, we have drifted off from each other, and so the blog languished. And with it, so did my writing.

But we all like to start fresh on the New Year. And so here we are. Starting fresh.

I was talking to my good friend Katie the other day about writing a blog. My biggest block, of course, is the little negative thought pattern that sits on my shoulder and says “who are you to write a blog?” I suppose the only answer is that I am what I am. My wife, Stephanie, who is a channel and a medium, channeled a spiritual hymn the other day with the idea that “you are the one.” She was asking a similar question. Who am I to take this on… and like an ant… the answer is you are the one.

So what is this going to be about? Well it’s really what I spend most of my time on. Health, Wealth, Relationships, Spirit, and Nature. And that’s what most of what I write will be about. So join me in these affirmations for the new year. Also, I have a tendency to talk to myself in my writing, or even in conversation. It is my human design that I organize my thoughts by speaking or writing about them. This process forces me to organize my thoughts into a linear stream. When I first read this post, I saw that many of my affirmations related to my experience and abilities. Please read this with the compassionate frame of reference that I do this to ground myself in the notion that I do have a voice worthy of this space. This is especially true in this context where no one is required to read of word of this if they do not want to. So here it goes…

Health – I am very grateful for my health and for the gift of life. My body is the vehicle that I inhabit during this life, and much of my experience of this life depends on the health and good function of my body. We all have the capacity to positively impact our health, through our diet, through our sleep, through our consumption habits, through exercise. Health is not about the treatment of disease. Health comes from investing time, care and love in ourselves for our own well being. Health is first, because without health, we cannot enjoy anything else here.

Wealth – This is a tricky topic, because there is so much anti-wealth rhetoric out there right now. Wealthy people are vilified as privileged or as not paying their fair share or of somehow leaching off the hard work of others. I do not believe that at all. Wealth is simply material abundance in excess of what we need for basic survival. In our society is usually is measured in terms of money. But not everywhere. I spend a lot of time in Brazil and have some very good friends who live in indigenous communities of the Amazon, where our version of wealth really has no meaning. Money is simply a step in the process of converting what someone produces into what someone needs. Wealth, then, might be the orchard of bananas that produces more bananas than the community consumes. This is not a metaphor. I am actually referring to a specific banana orchard in a specific community.

In our society, managing wealth is about what you do with financial resources that you do not need right away for your basic needs. I have a considerable experience in this field, it so happens, because I was trained as a Wealth Advisor by UBS Financial Services with particular study with their Global Asset Management business. I have a Bachelor of Science in Economics with Finance Applications, and I had about 12 years of experience financing private and corporate aircraft. I have met many private aircraft owners and their financial advisors. I have seen their portfolios, I have seen their financial statements, I have seen their tax returns, I have seen their aircraft.

And I learned from this, and so now, by the grace of God, I do not have to work in a corporate job to earn money to pay bills. I can manage wealth to do that. My career was basically from 1992 to 2013. I’m not retired, but I don’t work for anyone else. That’s the goal of wealth management.

And so in 2022 I would like to write about my study of finance, wealth management, investment and so forth. There is so much to know about finance, and so many voices out there profess to teach us, but really only persuade. And I’d also like to learn from smart people who are interested in these topics.

Relationships – Here is where we get our most joy in life. Relationships. I have had some experience here too, with two marriages and five children. I was married first for 21 years, and today, this very day, marks the last day of the tenth year since I met Stephanie, who I am blessed to be married to today. So all in all I have about 30 years of experience being married and I’ve raised five kids.

But these are not the only relationships. We have relationships at work, relationships with friends, relationships with professionals like lawyers, accountants, aircraft managers, therapists, doctors. We have personal trainers and massage therapists and acupuncturists. We have the friendly people who see us in our neighborhoods where we get coffee and check out at the grocery store. We also have our relationship to ourselves, and self compassion is what I’ve been studying recently. We have so many relationships in our lives, and in 2022 let’s let kindness and understanding be the rule.

.Spirit – What does that even mean? I started my spiritual understanding in my crib as a very young child with a dream that there was a man pounding in my chest against my ribs trying to get out, and when he broke out, that’s when my spirit would leave this world. I understood very young that I was a spirit that was contained in this body, but I lost touch with this.

My brain was infected by Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand, and her philosophy of objectivism. Which basically starts with the premise that if I perceive something, then there is a perceiver and an object of perception. From this premise, she concludes that thoughts of god and spirit are for the feeble minded. How simple the retort. But in a dream, do we not perceive? Is there an object separate from the perceiver in our dreams? No of course not. In our dreams we are both the object and the perceiver.

So what I have come to understand through a lot of work, and a lot of time in the jungle, and a lot of time in meditation that we inhabit these bodies. You are an eternal spirit having a material experience, and there is a reason that you came here to do this. I’m not sure about all the reasons, and I’m not exactly sure what it will be like when we return to the place we came here from, but it gives me great comfort to have faith that I am here for a reason and I chose to be here.

Nature – This is where we recharge. We as a species, have our highest calling as stewards of our environment. For me nature is about hiking the mountain trails around Telluride in the summer foraging for wild mushrooms, or about creating restorative agro-forestry projects in environmentally sensitive areas through our farms in Bahia, Brazil, and on the Big Island of Hawaii. Nature is about our connection to the planets, the stars, the sun and the moon. It is about our Mother Earth who brought us into the material. It is about the right of every creature to exist within the divine power.

Nature is where I go to recharge my batteries. It calms my nerves, and makes me feel the freedom of being a tiny little spec in an infinite universe. We all have the same sun, the firmament is the universal treasure, the ants are our teachers, and the forest holds the power. We are part of the natural world, but we have forgotten this. And so now we are suffering. But nature remains there to embrace us despite the abuse we have inflicted upon her. But really, we are only abusing our experience of the world. If we blow ourselves up now, after twenty million years goes by there will be little trace of us. And that’s only like one half of one percent of the time earth has been around. Global warming matters a lot to us and all creatures that inhabit the earth today. But not so much to the earth itself.

The new year gives a chance to reset our focus and to make incremental changes in our lives that will help us grow and enjoy more. For me, this means more attention to maintaining what I have created over the last few years and less focus on new creations. It means letting go of the plan, the map, the calendar, the goals and all of the other Saturn structures so that I can flow with the divine uncertainty that prevails anymore. It means releasing fight or flight and engaging the soothing system. It means a spoon full of honey before bed every night, just because it’s sweet.

What are your thoughts and plans for the new year? What might you want to change? If you are out there, please feel free to post a comment.

Thanks for the space.