You Should

A friends house in Bellingham, WA

A friends house in Bellingham, WA

It has been a long week. I was out of town in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington over the weekend and, of course, traveling doesn’t make keeping a routine any easier. I wrote a bit while I was away, but the trip made it challenging. I will blame the changing seasons and the nostalgia overload for my resistance in the past several days. Returning to the Bay Area, stepping out of the Oakland airport, I was immediately relieved by how warm it is here. Yes. The Fall I had been waiting for. Such a relief after the nipping cold that has already struck the Pacific Northwest.

Oakland Airport

Oakland Airport

I have returned to early alarms in the morning followed by 20 minutes of writing, but I have been dragging my feet. I got out of work today and was walking through the late afternoon sun across the parking lot thinking about writing and the resistance that is relentless inside of me at the moment. I’ve had trouble keeping my eyes open, my mind wanders, and I write things that don’t make any sense (not even to me). I am even having trouble revisiting anything I’ve written already long enough to edit. Soaking up the suns warmth, it dawned on me that I continuously have thoughts that I should be writing, I should be posting.

We all have a long list of “should’s” in our lives and it’s a fascinating thing that happens when you look at the difference between things that we are somehow obligated to do (or think we are) and those that we reward ourselves with. For me, writing is fun. I started without anyone asking me to and I continue to do so without any outside obligation. So why do I keep telling myself that I should write? That I should be posting to this blog?

University Bridge in Seattle, WA

University Bridge in Seattle, WA

I feel that I should because I want to be committed and act like a professional. You do not get proficient or good at a skill without dedication. If you practice any skill long enough, there comes a time when you feel resistance towards it. The number one reason most people do not master a skill is that they give up shortly after they have began.

This is a common theme for me, as well. I have a lot of interests and ideas, many of which I am excited about right out of the gate. However, give me a couple of days and it is possible I’ve forgotten about it completely. Or I’ll pretend I have to mask the embarrassment from lack of follow through. That being said, there are several things I am quite passionate about and have spent countless hours working on. A few of these would be bicycle touring and bike maintenance, reading and writing, painting and drawing, business and personal development. These passions have taken me on a cross-country bicycle tour, overseas to study art, and to multiple conferences to meet authors and entrepreneurs. This is to name a few benefits of follow through.

A friends bike rack installed in Bellingham, WA

A Kyle Morris bike rack installed in Bellingham, WA

The experiences that I consider amongst my greatest accomplishments are the results of longer term projects where I endured the ebb and flow of inspiration and interest. Then comes the nagging “should”. I wish I could eliminate this word from my brain. It sucks the fun out of an activity like a vacuum pack seal. I’m annoyed just typing about it. We do not pursue things like surfing or painting or music because we should. We pursue our passions because we are inspired to do so, because we have no other choice, because it connects and flows out of us, when it wills it to be so.

So I feel forced to ask, but really it’s a simple question that surfaces in my mind: are there things we should do? I don’t really believe so. I would like to answer that we should be kind and we should take care of ourselves. However, I can’t help think of Byron Katie and follow up my answer with another question: is that true? Can we know it to be true that we should be kind? A question for another time and blog post.

Satisfied with a few hours in the water.

Satisfied with a few hours in the water. You SHOULD get into the Pacific ocean.

Walking through the parking lot I realized that my resistance grows when I feel like I should be doing something. I am passionate about writing and about treating it like a professional practice. I want to be a proficient writer, therefore I want to work on writing everyday. Should I write? I do not know the answer to that question. I know only that when I say the inverse – I should not write – that my mind flips a little and reverts to thinking “What?! But I MUST write!” The thought of losing the practice, of foregoing the blog, of abandoning writing, is more painful than the irritation of the “should”. That being said, I tire of thinking I should anything and hope to slowly eradicate it from my mind.

Are there things you feel people are obligated to do? When do you tell yourself you should be doing something? How does it feel to have the opposite thought – that you should not be doing that thing? Would love to hear it: Lara@LaraBuelow.com

Reach for the stars.

Reach for the stars.

Pursuing Goals Without Attachment

Sunrise

Sunrise

I listened to my little sister read out loud from her book Just One Thing. “To live is to pursue goals”. Truth. “Do you go after goals with attachment or with aspiration? Attachment is stress and drivenness, while aspiration is without outer effort and inner peacefulness, rewarded by the journey itself no matter the destination”. Bells began to go off inside my brain, it felt like there was music. Her voice reading the words played on my heart strings. “At the heart of attachment is craving. Aspiration is working hard without getting hung up on the results. It helps you stretch and grow without worrying about looking bad”.

This is not ground breaking news, as many of us have learned about attachment and aspiration before. However, in that moment, I wanted to raise my hand above my lowered head, squeeze my eyes shut tight, snap my fingers and say “Church!” Hearing this message in a short and succinct manner never gets old. It feels like a gentle reminder to look at your intentions. It’s like a nudge, not even in a particular direction, but one that bumps you back into the present moment.

Post surfing session joy.

Post surfing session joy.

There are many examples I can think of where I truly enjoy the process and am not overly concerned with the outcomes. For me this includes: surfing, CrossFit, cycling, cooking, reading, writing, and a variety of other activities. When I pursue these things, they often help bring me into the present and hold me there. I enjoy the particular steps and all the elements that create the experience. I am satisfied and fulfilled with the results, regardless of the outcome. For example, when I go surfing, I love getting into the water, paddling into the waves, getting my hair wet, sitting on the board, talking shit, catching a wave, getting pummeled, exhausting my shoulders paddling and emerging from the ocean hungry and invigorated. This is not to say that I am not disappointment when I don’t catch a wave or that I don’t have ridiculous fantasies of being a professional surfer babe. That’s not why I keep coming back though. I want to continue surfing because the journey is a package deal that brings me inner peacefulness.

I think the true challenge lies in letting go of the idea of your future self. We care about where we end up. We worry. We work hard. We hope to do well in a review or on a project and when we don’t get the recognition we were hoping for, we feel disappointed. Dr. Rick Hanson from Just One Thing says that aspiration is about liking, while attachment is about craving. It’s hard not to desire that raise or bonus. We all seek acknowledgment, don’t we? Even in the activities that I mentioned above, where I believe that I am acting through aspiration (not attachment), I fantasize about being a pro and getting famous based on that activity (with the exception of cooking). I stick with these activities because I enjoy the process: I like the whole experience. I do not crave the end goal of fame or recognition so much that I am taken out of the present moment.

Goals. Dreams. Desires.

Goals. Dreams. Desires.

So how do we move away from attachment and towards aspiration? Awareness. Awareness is always the first step. You can’t be aware or know about the things you don’t know you don’t know. You got that? The bells went off hearing this passage about aspiration because it reminded me that when you practice awareness on a daily basis, you begin to see when and where you are attached to the results.

Listen, I don’t currently meditate, I’m no Buddhist, but I know that as humans, we tend to gravitate to the path of least suffering. We don’t want to endure pain. So when you do feel pain, pay attention. It’s trying to tell you something. I recently listened to an interview with Meg Wordenon BlogcastFM. She was arrested shortly after giving birth to her son. She spent multiple years in federal prison. A major take away for me has been that you always have a choice. You can fight tooth and nail for your fantasy, no matter how disconnected from reality it is, or you practice loving the path you are on. That’s not to say that you have to love every moment. Meg talks about choosing to learn the lessons that life was handing her. Aspiration seems to be something like this, a dedication to learning through your experiences regardless of the outcome.

Do you have an experience that illustrates the different between liking and wanting? How do you practice awareness? Lara@LaraBuelow.com

Transformation.

Transformation.

Welcoming Destruction into Your Life

 

Cut through the red tape.

Cut through the red tape.

How do you feel about what must be destroyed in your life?

This is a question posted by Danielle LaPorte for Desire Map followers. We are starting a book club. Lucky for me – blog post prompts weekly and plenty of people to discuss them with. This question has irked me because I feel inspired and excited about the destruction of several things or parts of my life, but I run into a problem. How do you fully embrace destruction and start acting? Meaning, how to I get down with destruction and start lighting shit on fire?

Sitting in my bed writing this, I look up and it’s glaringly obvious that clutter must be destroyed. There is a lot of crap in this room that needs to be eliminated. It’s like a slap in the face because I realize that I already have an answer to my question. So how do I really feel about what needs to be destroyed in my life? Annoyed. Cleaning house – it isn’t exactly number one on my list of inspiring activities.

These shoes: an inspiration or shameless creation?

These shoes: an inspiration or shameless creation?

So how can I use my excitement about destroying unnecessary crap in my life into action instead of stewing in annoyance? This is the dry part where you have to channel David Allen in order to Get Things Done. Time to enroll in Getting Shit Done (GSD) University (Fist PoundShot of Espresso). Put your big girl pants on (or take them off if that makes you more comfortable) and make a concrete list of action specific items only. Here is an example of a bad list:

  • Clean Room
  • Bike Box Stuff
  • Laundry
  • Clear Desk

Here is an example of a GSD List:

  • Fold clean laundry
  • Put shoes in closet
  • Vacuum rug
  • Sort bike box: throw out crap, organize box and put under bed
  • Sort through misc papers: recycle or file

Since these are all actionable items that are relevant to cleaning my room, I may make a GSD Clean Room Project List. It’s useful to make lists based on location, which includes an On the Go or Out and About list that you can reference while you are running errands. Once you begin breaking tasks down into smaller actionable items, you’ll be surprised at how much easier it might be to do them. When I go through this process it becomes glaringly obvious to me where my hang ups are. OH, that’s why I haven’t budged on cleaning my floor: I can’t vacuum until I buy new vacuum bags and I’m really dragging my feet on going to that particular store. No more excuses! Why am I resistant to that? Usually the best answer I can come up with is I don’t feel like it (lazy). Time to kick myself in the ass and get going.

Even if you knew, how would you get started?

Even if you knew, how would you get started?

Writing a GSD list helps us become clearer on what needs to be destroyed in our lives. Maybe laziness needs to be dealt with. Or procrastination. Or maybe it’s an opportunity to look at what your priorities are and honor them. Screw the vacuum bags! Sweep the rug. Your time is precious and you would rather spend time reading.

Based on my analysis of destroying clutter, I can see that I need to set aside some time to get started. I like the start small approach and remind myself often that giving a project 5 – 20 minutes a day will get me farther than thinking I have to do it all in one go. I have decided that I want to touch every item in my bedroom and ask if it still needs to be in here. If it doesn’t, I throw it out or give it away. This is just the beginning. Choose one thing and get started. It’s time to turn up the music and get your hands dirty.

What is one thing that needs to be destroyed in your life? How will you get started? Lara@LaraBuelow.com

Get Creative.

Get Creative.

A New Framework for Goal Setting

Palace of Fine Arts: a great place to find inspiration.

Palace of Fine Arts: a great place to find inspiration.

I am in my first week of being 27 and several people have approached me asking about what goals I am setting for this new year. While I have plenty of things I would like to accomplish, I don’t think that 28X28 is the best structure for my next year of life. I am remembering a conversation with a good friend from a long time ago. I told him that I don’t really care much what happens in my life as long as I am happy. Whatever life throws my way, I hope I can come out the other side, find the important lessons and live a happy life. Even in the face of destruction and cruelty. If I experience the apocalypse, I still want to be capable of happiness.

So, dude that he is, my friend said that’s nice and all, but what do I have to DO in order to feel happy. I believe I fidgeted at the time and shifted around uncomfortably. Yes, this is a good approach, but dammit that means I have lots of unanswered questions. Little did I know at the time, this theory is in the same vein as Danielle LaPorte’s work. I want to FEEL X, so what do I have to DO in order to accomplish X? When I do Y, I feel X. This is exactly what Danielle LaPorte is getting at.

Moments to scribble down some ideas.

Moments to scribble down some ideas.

I am 4 days into 27 and I would like to outline a new framework for this year of life.

In order to set meaningful goals for myself, I want to make sure that I am pursuing activities that feed what I want to feel. It is much easier to feel fulfilled when you are clear on the intention behind a goal or activity. Rather than creating an arbitrary list of 28 things I would like to do before my next birthday, I would like to explore how to achieve my core desired feelings through activities each week or month. Since I am not quite sure how this process will unfold, I will have to tailor it as I go along.

For example: I have identified my 5 core desired feelings as: clear, connected, creative, relaxed, and powerful. I can choose to focus on one or two of those feelings in a particular week and do things that feed that feeling. Say I want to feel relaxed. It’s important to reflect on when I have felt relaxed in the past and recognize what makes me feel relaxed now. Then I make a list of things that induce relaxation for me: I feel relaxed when I get important items done early in the day, when I eat meals with friends, when I exercise and when I sleep enough. I feel relaxed when I am clear on my priorities so that I can give each task the time that it needs.

Taking time to write.

Taking time to write.

As mentioned in previous posts, I am going to read The Desire Map, and use the book to guide this process. I do have a growing list of goals and am always curious about what other people want to accomplish before they die. As I add things to my list, I ask myself why I want to do that particular thing and what feelings I believe I will get from achieving that task. Here are a few items I’ve come up with:

  1. Get ride of stuff: clarity, freedom, mobility, focus
  2. Learn Hootsuite: transferable skills, powerful, contribute, connection
  3. Surf vacation: relaxed, connection, powerful, mobile, focused
  4. Write/Blog: connection, contribute, powerful, relaxed, understanding, reflection, commitment
  5. Make another postcard: creative, connection, powerful, contribute

Using your core desired feelings as a way of setting goals is a great bullshit meter. Are you doing this for yourself or are you doing this because society tells you it’s cool? Are you creating your own path or are you drinking the Kool-Aid? Let’s get real. Happiness might be right around the corner if you check in with your motives.

Can you identify one of your core desired feelings? Is there a major life goal that you have? Shoot me an email and let me know what they are. Lara@LaraBuelow.com

Sunny morning bicycle rides to work make me feel grateful and relaxed.

Sunny morning bicycle rides to work make me feel grateful and relaxed.

Happy Birthday Me

A card from my Mom...

A card from my Mom…

It’s my birthday!

Surfing with Maria

Surfing with Maria

Yesterday I celebrated by going surfing at Pacifica with my good friend Maria, hitting a silent disco at Ocean Beach, and then having an amazing meal with my family.

Silent Disco at Ocean Beach

Silent Disco at Ocean Beach

I realized last night that I feel a lot of pressure to write a big beautiful post for today. However, I have a birthday ritual that needs to be honored. I am going to Santa Cruz for a run on the beach and then a swim/surf session in the ocean. So, today I am gifting myself this simple post.

A few things are on the list for this year of life: keep writing/blogging regularly, go surfing, travel to Germany, purge your crap, and visit friends.

Family Dinner

Family Dinner

If you are reading this: I would love to hear from you. I have been hesitant to reach out and ask for feedback (scared). I’ve been writing for one year now and it’s time to face some blogging fears. I am always grateful to receive feedback and your thoughts.  For my birthday, I am wishing to hear from anyone and everyone who reads this – tell me about what your hopes and fears are for the rest of 2013 or about your favorite color or a few things on your bucket list. I appreciate you and I’m excited to hear what you have to say.  Send it here: Lara@LaraBuelow.com

Apparently I am going to learn how to play the Ukulele this year.

Apparently I am going to learn how to play the Ukulele this year.

27×27: The End

photo_6

Looking at my goal list for the past year, I am most proud of 2 things. The first is that I committed to blogging each of my goals and this exercise made me realize that something I really enjoy is the writing itself. It feels satisfying that I have embraced the writing process and stuck with it over the last twelve months. Especially to simply relish the act of writing, without judging the end product. The second thing I am proud of this year is that I made several huge changes in my life and am still working hard to create the life I want to live. If that’s too vague for you: I am so happy that I moved to San Francisco and have been able to find rewarding work. I am incredibly grateful to be at San Francisco CrossFit and Suppenküche, two companies where I’ve met some of the most amazing people in my life.

SFCF made some big changes this year, too: Moving indoors, out of the rain.

SFCF made some big changes this year, too: Moving indoors, out of the rain.

These two things also translate into what I am most grateful over the last year. I am grateful for all the love and support I got from my family and friends. I am grateful for the people who offered me work and flexibility in my schedule, coworkers who helped me out, and both the constructive and positive feedback I’ve received from people in different areas of my life. I also appreciate California Sunshine, the ability to take vacations in far off places, and the wild adventurous opportunities that present themselves to me.

On Monday, I will turn 27 and my 27×27 year will be complete. Friends have been asking what 28×28 will look like, but I can’t say it looks very appealing. It isn’t edgy enough. It’s putting too many items on a list, it’s too arbitrary. I need something with a bit more gusto. I want an divine list, not one that induces guilt over an unchecked box. I thought about beginning a 3×30 or 30×30 project, as it’s dawning on me that a decade benchmark is approaching. It’s still in the cards. However, in an effort to distance myself from numbers and quantifying everything, I would like to experiment with living the next year in a quality-inspired manner.

California Sunshine

California Sunshine

So I am crafting a plan for living my next year of life using the Desire Map. I will use my core desired feelings as my compass and my 12 commandments as my guiding constitution. THIS SOUNDS SO CORNY. Cue Phil Collins, because that’s my JAM. Hopefully over the next 12 months I will be able to communicate all of this in a way that sounds more hardcore and less “floofy”. That’s the (non) word that comes to mind. But right now it’s all I’ve got.

Fear Less. Love More.

Fear Less. Love More.

Why You Are Unhappy

WaitButWhy.com: I am Lucy.

WaitButWhy.com: I am Lucy. Or the vomiting unicorn. Either way, I’m disappointed.

Today, I am going to explore why we are unhappy while I dissect this awesome post about Gen Y. Face it, even those of us who report that we feel pretty good can generally find something to gripe about and are sitting on a mountain of doubt and confusion. You, me, and just about everyone else. So why not explore all this anxiety together?

WaitButWhy introduces Lucy, the main character of the story to illustrate the problem with todays up and coming generation. They get a pretty good name, Gen Y Protangonists and Special Yuppies (GYPSYs); the “main character of a very special story”. Oh, I’m sorry, what we believe is a very special story, not that it is one. This puts me on guard, as it would, being a Gen Y’er. Though it appears the point of this essay is to take Gen Y down a notch, there’s no evidence that this is what will actually happen. I do believe we are all the main character of a special story – it’s called Your Life, cherish it.

Next, WaitButWhy gives us an important equation. One you have likely seen and heard before.

Happiness = Reality – Expectations

I believe this to be true. The book, Loving What Is by Byron Katie, is a beautiful modern American zen perspective of this equation. Happiness decreases the more you battle reality. If you live in the moment and can accept things as they are, why would you be unhappy? It is the message in our minds “Things should not be this way” that creates stress and anxiety.

Let's rain on the Gen Y parade! Haters gotta hate.

Happiness = Expectations – Reality

Speaking of stress, this article has been the catalyst for many heated debates within my family lately, so it’s great that it spans issues across generations. I was talking to my mom about this article and she expressed an important point: her parents lived in a time that was so bad (WWII in Germany), that there was really no other direction to go but up. They had hit rock bottom and just about anything looks good after you’ve been there.

WaitButWhy mentions that the post war generation was living for the American Dream, whereas Gen Y is living for Our Own Personal Dream.  This strikes a cord with me and appears to be the path that we are on. I don’t believe that this statement is written with any particular judgments attached to it, though I could see how someone might believe that there are. While I love this post because it stimulates such thought provoking conversation, something that rubs me the wrong way is the insane amount of judgment that shines through the responses.  Is this bad? Is it good? Does it matter? Maybe Gen Y’ers are looking to live their own personal dream. So what? With time, things change. We aren’t going to continue to live the American Dream and I don’t think I need to talk about why that is here.

In the spirit of pursuing our personal dreams versus America’s, it is no surprise that terms like “career security” are now less popular than “a fulfilling career”. Again, the only constant here is change. The baby boomers and Gen X lived the American Dream, so it’s time to come up with something new. How do these concepts come into being? I can’t say I have a good answer, but it appears that the masses are behind lifestyle design and pursuing passionate careers. What would you suggest? Seeing the success of those before us, how do you continue to strive and be inspired?

Love what is.

Love what is.

Next comes an important point from WaitButWhy. You and I – we are delusional. Again, this could be interpreted as aggressive or cruel. My reaction was: “Thank God! Sweet salvation!” Rather than taking this as an attack on me or my generation, I am going to take it as validation. I feel validated in my feelings of stress, anxiety, and confusion. This statement makes me feel more human. And guess what we all have in common? 😉

Then I find myself asking who is WaitButWhy? Which generation do they belong to? Do they make money from their blog? How are they any different? WaitButWhy must be human, too. If they do get paid through their blog, then they are an example of something I would like to believe is possible for myself. My point here is that a common experience in humanity is being delusional. Doing The Work outlined in Loving What Is proves that. So maybe Gen Y is just like everyone else.

The first problem that is actually identified in the article is that everyone in Gen Y thinks they are special. No, like really super special. More special than you. GASP. Before WaitButWhy goes much further into the details of why this is a problem, they identify a second: GYPSYs are taunted.

Gah! It's ALWAYS sunnier on that side!

Gah! It’s ALWAYS sunnier on that side!

At this point in the post, I am grateful that I fully identify with Lucy. Hell, I am Lucy and here is this person validating the sources of so much of my anxiety. Lucky me, let’s get to work on all this shit. Here, WaitButWhy brings in issues around Facebook Image Crafting. It is an unfortunate truth that social media gives us inflated ideas of how others are living their lives. This in turn makes us feel bad about ourselves. These are real life problems for Gen Yer’s. So what now?

Advice from WaitButWhy is as follows:

#1: Stay wildly ambitious. Yes! I love it. This quote from Carl Sandburg illustrates this sentiment for me: “I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” There’s only one way to find out where the path you are forging may take you –> Keep going.

#2: Stop thinking your special. I think this is generally good advice. No matter how special you actually are, it’s annoying to meet people who think and act like they’re God’s gift to earth, even if it’s true. The most inspiring, generous, and awesome people I have met, act like they have confidence, an inner knowing that they are capable, but they are humble and build up the people around them.

#3 Ignore everyone else. Another big THANK YOU to the author of WaitButWhy. There is often something healing in receiving validation from others and this is a big wound that needs healing. An entire generation with false expectations? Shit. Ignoring everyone else and concentrating on your own work is no small feat. Especially with our growing internet and Facebook addictions. Let’s channel #1 to help out here, why not use that ambitious energy to learn how to ignore everyone else and be a total Buddha in regards to social media networks? How are you going to live your daily life using social media and keep your head about you? If  this is Gen Y’s greatest challenge, how will we rise to the occasion?

Fear Less. Love More.

Fear Less. Love More.

Group Love

Me, alone. Burning Man 2013. #self #bm13

Me, alone. Burning Man 2013.

In line with Burning Man’s theme this year: Cargo Cult, I realized through my last post that I have a lot to say about groups. I found myself writing about physical parties, organizational dynamics, power plays, and psychology. At some point I cut the document in half, seeing that I had plenty of material to comprise a separate post. Reflecting on my past, I can see I’ve gone through a variety phases and undoubtedly changed my mentality around groups several times. I have been an enthusiastic leader (elementary school), a nasty conformist (late middle school), an eager follower (early high school), and self prescribed individualist (late high school).

Since my institutional education days, I have struggled with larger group dynamics. I fit in just fine (social conditioning works on me) – but there is something about congregations en masse and elements of power play that I find unsettling.The constant push and pull between wanting acceptance and recognition versus doing what you want or what you believe is right, has the ability to be a traumatic experience. People do funny and fucked up things within organized circles. By the time you are thirteen you have already been through your fair share of social conditioning, which includes hazing and teasing, as well as acceptance and support.

Let’s be honest, I judge groups based on feeling judged within them. Life is absurd like that. My sentiment is that social circles often fall into a trap of complacency. They agree with each other too much, they look up to someone as their leader, they talk a lot of shit, and they are exclusive. That’s why it can be easier to hover on the periphery. When you are loosely affiliated with a crew, you can’t be fully rejected because you were never totally IN anyway. You can also jump ship and not feel like a total asshole because you were never a committed member to begin with.

Absurdity.

Absurdity.

To a certain degree, I am comfortable with being uncomfortable… I can hover at the boundary of groups and hold hands with my loneliness. I do not know how many others do this. I feel as though people are often fearful of not associating with a group, so they subscribe to whichever one fits best or is most convenient. This is unappealing to me. I want to observe and experience a community before putting my heart into one. And this is very much what I was flirting with during Burning Man this year.

My non commitment to social circles has been much to my success and my detriment throughout life. I build close, tight-knit relationships with those I resonate with, which affords me an amazing network of loyal friends. However, I have also suffered being cast out and attacked by people who take my solitary nature personally. While selective about which communities I put my energy into, I realize my short comings in this arena. And perhaps my solo adventures on the playa during my Burning Man vacation facilitated making myself more vulnerable and open to considering some of these things.

This year, at Burning Man, I fell in love with groups. Not one group, but 3 or 4, and not just physical groups, but the idea of groups, too. It got all up in my face how I wanted to be a part of a camp or gang of hooligans. Groups are powerful, much more powerful than we are alone. And powerful is one of my core desired feelings. In an organization or posse, you have the ability to build and influence an empire (even if it’s only a mini empire). By developing relationships with those around you, you cultivate trust, and through trust you increase your level of impact.

In and around camp.

In and around camp.

Without further adieu:

Love Story #1: World Domination Summit Camp

I stood back on the black plastic tarps underneath the expansive shade structure and watched four rows of human bodies at work. I was impressed. The sea of flesh flowed gently with the  movement of arms and legs, up and down, side to side, swaying slowly. Camp members, geezers with tanned and saggy skin, were weaving in and out of the crowd pouring water into thirsty peoples mouths as they craned their heads back.

This was the Carcass Wash. A daily event hosted by the PolyParadise Camp, where you go to wash and be washed by your fellow burners. Nudity optional, you only undress to your own level of comfort, but it is the rare attendee who still has their undies on. They give a grand orientation and dress the experience in the practice of communicating your boundaries and the ritual of touch across cultures. In my opinion, they did a great job of instituting caring, yet professional touch between strangers, and were exceptionally efficient in cleaning an amazing amount of people with surprisingly little water. And what a sight to see.

I looked over to my left and there stood an attractive young gentleman who I had noticed going through the lines from my vantage point. I hoped to strike up a conversation with this enticing man, since he stood so close, and decided to offer him some water. We began chatting, and he asked if he had seen me here yesterday? I laughed because I wanted to be flattered and would have liked to believe that he had noticed me. But I tell him no, he did not see me there yesterday, and I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen him before. From there I learned that he is a life coach, at which point I became acutely interested in what he had to say because I am always curious as to how people pull that off. I expressed my enthusiasm in his profession and told him how I am trying to learn more about consulting and location independent work.

Oh yea, did I mention I was NAKED? Yes. I carried on a conversation, in a my birthday suite, with a young man who happens to do something I am particularly interested in. I can’t say that I cared too much, as there were so many other naked people that it wasn’t a big deal. However, this guy had put boxers on. So while I was attempting to have a semi-serious conversation about business related things, I couldn’t help but notice that I was in the nude, speaking to someone I found quite attractive. Thank God lady boners don’t show… I have to laugh at the fact that something people describe as a nightmare was my reality. There I stood, naked, talking to Mr. Good-Looking-Lifestyle-Designer (Mr. GLLD) and decided life is pretty damn fantastic.

We continued talking and he tells me I should try getting more involved by attending events in order to meet people interested in coaching and location independence. I nod and say, “Yea, I attended a conference earlier this year with a ton of entrepreneurs in Portland, the World Domination Summit (WDS).” His eyes widen and he tells me that he was there too and so was most of his camp! Perhaps this is where he recognizes me from?

I am ecstatic that we have discovered this because now we have something totally awesome in common and I am hoping he agrees because I am determined to make him my friend. He invites me to his camp that evening and says I should definitely come by to meet everyone. As we part ways, I am thinking that this interaction is another thread in the blanket, another one of these ridiculous small-world coincidences. Of course I would talk to the one naked guy at the Carcass Wash in the middle of the desert who attended WDS! Coming to Burning Man was worth it.

After the sun set, I hopped onto my gold spray painted bicycle and began pedaling my way counter-clockwise around the circle shape of Burning Man. It was a bumpy ride from 8:30, where I was stationed, around to 2:45 where I was hoping to find the camp filled with WDS’ers. I bounced up and down on the springy cruiser seat and squeezed the honky horn every once in a while, in a friendly “hello” or “watch the hell out” fashion. In the darkness my dim bike lights and lack of brakes forced me to ride particularly cautiously to avoid any sort of collisions, making my progress slow, but steady.

I weaved in and out the packs of pedestrians, straining to see the street signs and looking carefully at the camps I passed. I wasn’t quite sure how I would recognize them, but kept my eye out for the red, cone-shaped tent Mr. GLLD had mentioned in our earlier conversation. Coming upon such a structure, I pulled my bike up next to a few others and joined some people settled around a hookah. “Hey, my name’s Lara. I met Mr. GLLD earlier, am I in the right camp?” They assured me I was. Success! I was welcomed into the circle and began to learn everyone’s story as we passed the hookah around.

People wandered about camp, blurry-eyed from naps, getting ready for the night, putting on face paint and make-up and passing around bottles of booze. Mr. GLLD himself joined us at some point and I learned little tidbits about his past and how he ended up pursuing various opportunities. It was a light-hearted and hard working crew, all thrilled to be sharing their time together at Burning Man, as well as their passionate work pursuits.

As we rallied for the evening, it became clear to me how committed many of these people were to each other. They weren’t just camping together, but wanted to build an experience based on shared memories. There was a strong group mentality that encouraged everyone to contribute and to stick together (at least to some extent). Getting ready to head out for the night, we all huddled up. A few members spoke about their current experiences and their appreciation towards everyone at camp. With our arms wrapped around one another, we swayed and hum-hahed our agreements. After a few minutes, the sentiments died. Hooping and hollering, everyone got rowdy and gave a final cheer before mounting bicycles and speeding down the dusty, pot-marked roads to whatever adventures awaited us that night.

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More musings and love stories about groups to come. ~ Strength & Vigor ~

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Showing Up: Burning Man 2013

Road Trip: Highway 447

Road Trip: Highway 447

During my week of vacation this summer I went to Burning Man (BM). I was on the fence about it for a long time. Similar to last year, I waited until the last minute to get a ticket. However, like last year, it was no problem and all the puzzle pieces seemed to naturally fall into place. Even after getting my ticket I waffled about whether or not I should go. Burning Man is a time and place where you get little sleep, there’s a million things to do, it’s hot and dusty, and the extremeness can be overwhelming and exhausting. Perhaps, I thought, it would be better to have a stay-cation and rest?

A friend of mine who I spent a lot of time with at BM 2012 called me on the phone. We had discussed camping together this year and were trying to coordinate plans. Her and her boyfriend had purchased a cheap car and had gone on a camping trip by the Yuba River. On the phone she explained that the car was more or less dead and it wouldn’t make the journey. No problem, I assured her, I would take them. And just like that I had committed to Burning Man 2013.

The Groc-Out. Fun times were had by all.

The Groc-Out. Fun times were had by all.

Panicking slightly that I had offered to be their ride, I told her that I was more than happy to make the drive out to Black Rock City with them. I was pumped to camp with them, too, but I wanted some level of independence and flexibility. I didn’t want them to depend on me for a ride home in case I freaked out and left early. I had been looking forward to this vacation for a long time and I wanted the autonomy to do what I liked when I felt like it. The last thing I wanted was to feel guilty for abandoning my friends in the middle of the desert. Luckily for me, my friends are badasses who have no issues making shit happen.

So that was that. I was going to BM, for better or for worse. The thrill of the trip sank in and kept me up at night. I only managed to pack the day before I planned to leave, stuffing rolled socks and lacy underwear into plastic bags, hoping that less was more. Last year I was with an organized camp, whereas this time it would only be the three of us and I wasn’t quite sure how it would all work out.

Even though I now had arranged to camp with my two friends, I felt as though I should approach the event as though I was going it alone. I did not want to rely on them as a couple for company and I definitely did not want to resent them for that either. I also wanted to mentally prepare myself for the tsunami of FOMO (fear of missing out). I desperately wanted to grant myself permission to do BM at my own pace with the least amount of comparison or pressure possible. I had been mulling this over for weeks and had no idea how I would feel once I arrived on the playa. It almost kept me from going, but the adventure was set in motion and the excitement was mounting. I was grateful to have friends as company and build a camp with and pleased that I was freewheeling.

After a 6am departure from Davis, CA and 7 hours of waiting, we made it through the long dusty lines and began looking for a spot to set up our tents. It took a while, but with some patience we found people who welcomed us with open arms. We were very limited in our supplies and incredibly under prepared compared to our neighbors. I felt like a gutter punk kid who was going to sleep in the dust all week choking on gas fumes while our fancy neighbors ran their generator next to my cheap tent. But it didn’t matter. I took pride in the simplicity of it all.

The line outside the gate.

The line outside the gate.

Despite all the back and forth, the worry of being unprepared, and insecurities surrounding loneliness, it was blissful to spend a week on the playa. I take pride in my ability to see the value of showing up and being present in situations, even when it is difficult and challenging. This is also how I ended up doing CrossFit. I often tell myself, when I meet resistance in attending a new class or event, that all I have to do is go – I don’t have to excel or do anything crazy, I don’t have to dance or make a new friend. As long as I bring my body and smile once, that can be enough.

So rather than staying in the bay area for a week and hiding out at my parents house to recharge, I committed to going to BM. I knew that I would regret it if I did not attend and I also knew that ultimately, the option of a good party and friends would be more valuable to me than spending 7 days alone in Palo Alto. All of my last minute decisions lead me to an “Oops, I did it again” moment, where I realized that I felt limited in my ability to contribute at BM and that may cause me to treat it more as an experience than a participatory community(!?) What I am saying is, that while I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to do BM, it relies heavily on people who whole-heartedly care about the city and build it from scratch. Then they return it to the same state the desert was in before we were there. That’s a shit ton of work.

Not only that, the culture of BM is maintained by those who are committed to practicing open mindedness and gifting. Approaching others in the spirit of non-expectation is no small feat and requires vigilance. As an organization, there are people working year round on creating this bedazzling parallel universe and I do not take it for granted. For this reason, I would like to acknowledge that there are endless opportunities to contribute to BM as a place, an event, and as a community. While I set multiple intentions for myself this year, they were very personal in dealing with my own emotions. I am planting the seed that the next time I go to BM, I would like to contribute more towards the experience as a whole and to a group at large. In this way, I am contemplating the core principles of the event and meditating on my own ability to shape experiences for myself and others.

After a weeks vacation in the desert, I have come back refreshed. I am satisfied to say that, despite the harsh conditions, I am rested and healthy. I am grateful for the art, the music, and the friends I bonded with. With my birthday only 2 weeks away, I’m excited for new writing material and bringing a fresh perspective to another year of life.

Get by with a little help from your friends.

Get by with a little help from your friends.

How You Know It’s Good

New favorite colors makes me go "ZING!"

New favorite color makes me go “ZING!”

How do you know when you’ve got something good?

You know when you’ve got something good when you miss it, your body craves it, and when you can feel it nourishing your soul. It’s a thick syrup of satisfaction. It’s the complete exhaustion of a raging dance party, a 4am ski tour, or completing a century ride. You’ve got something good when pride radiates out of you like a supernova and buzzing electric energy keeps you up at night.

However, it isn’t always that easy or obvious to recognize. There are a million and one messages out there in the world telling you what you should want and why. Sometimes we get confused; are we chasing something because we know it’s good or because someone else said so? It’s challenging to tune out all the noise and check in with yourself to see where you really stand.

I know what's going on here and it still trips me up.

I know what’s going on here and it still trips me up.

And what does nourishing your soul mean anyway? There is nourishment that comes in the form of wholesome Fun Type A: hanging out and talking shit with your buddies or going for a stroll. There is also soul nourishment that comes in the form of Fun Type B: writing at 5:30am, prying your eyeballs open and leaking coffee down the front of your sleepy shirt, rappelling down a rock face even though you feel like you might shit your pants, or giving a speech in front of 100 people. Recognizing soul-fertilizing moments can be intuitive and easy or hard and mysterious. Sometimes you just know. You can feel it straight in your gut, even when an activity is a strenuous pain in the ass, yet you soak it all in because you are pumped for the reward that awaits.

Then there are times you aren’t so sure. Maybe you’ve begun taking things for granted or you are tired and overworked. Sometimes I sit and think to myself “what would my life be like if I didn’t hold on to this idea that I have to write? Or set goals?” In the wake of all other daily activities, I wonder if I am adding to my own stress or pursuing a healthy passion. There is always a pregnant pause in the moments following my contemplation of this idea.

I feel like I know I have found something worthwhile when there seems to be no other way and I would otherwise be leading an entirely different life. Even though there is no clearly defined path, I can’t help but try and forge one in order to continue exploring this thing. In my case, writing is a perfect example.

There are mornings where I sit blurry eyed and half asleep (much like this morning) and ask myself “why am I doing this?” I have likely gone to bed after my roommates and I am up well before. The seasons are changing, it’s still dark outside, and I would happily catch up on sleep and recover from my best friend’s wedding this past weekend. Yet, the alarm has gone off, and hot tea in hand, I know that deep satisfaction is on the other side of this writing hurdle.

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Without a dedicated writing practice, I would sleep in and have a shorter list of things to do. I wouldn’t worry about Mondays and Wednesdays and not having anything to post. I wouldn’t have to collect photos or worry about editing them. Without writing, I would have less anxiety based on posting my thoughts online and the fear of looking stupid.

Yet… I do it anyway. My birthday looms of the horizon and it will be my one year anniversary of starting It’s All in the Blanket. Without this blog, I would not receive feedback from several of you about goals and aspirations. Without this writing practice, I would not be as challenged intellectually or experience the swells of inspiration to continue striving for more in my life. I have connected with so many creatives, authors, entrepreneurs, and active community members through my work to create these posts that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You know you’ve got something good when you look back at all the blood, sweat, and tears and every sensation tells you it’s worth it. You know it’s great when it makes you laugh, dance, and sing that you would do it all over again.

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