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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
More musings and love stories about groups to come. ~ Strength & Vigor ~
One reason I love living in San Francisco is that it is such a hub. People travel through and come to visit this stunning city all the time. It makes me feel connected to the world on a global and on a personal level. Having lived in a fair number of cities, it is so nice to hear from friends I haven’t seen in years and to be able to meet them for a coffee, join them for dinner, or host them at my house when they come to San Francisco.
Meeting up with my good friend, Hannah, who I met at Parsons in New York City (<– blast from the past with some art photos!) was a reminder of how time and space can be irrelevant. With people of your tribe, sometimes the days that turn into years and the distance of thousands of miles can not take away from the comfort you feel around someone. I love this feeling.
Catching up face to face is priceless. Getting straight into the meaty parts of our lives we shared first hand accounts of love affairs, adventures abroad, apartment fires, kickstarter campaigns, jobs, art and future dreams. It brought me straight into the present moment. After a long day of project lists and general overwhelm, I found myself right where I needed to be. This is the fabric of life: food, warm bodies, and talk.
It is August 2013 and I have worked more in the last 12 months of my life than ever before. I have also moved three times and had five different jobs (often multiple at the same time). While my motivation levels have plummeted, my mind continues to race at high speed. I may not be inspired to act on many of my thoughts, but I can’t help asking “What’s next? How can I do this better? Is this what I really want?”
I’ve been attempting to cut myself off from streams of input (blogs, podcasts, magazines, email, conferences) that will simply feed the incessant chatter in my head and increase the anxiety about not having “figured it out” yet. I am trying to say no more to information and opportunities that do not serve me, so that I can yes more to healing activities that allow me to process everything that has happened this year.
In August 2012 I was still at the Marin Headlands Hostel and about to go to Burning Man for the first time. Fast forward 8 weeks, I was working at the hostel, Lululemon, and Biergarten. For some reason I thought it was necessary to have multiple jobs to live in San Francisco. Note to self: if you can get by with less hours and just one job, DO THAT. I wrapped up working at the hostel in November, and soon began working at Suppenkuche (in addition to Lululemon and Biergarten). I continued to juggle these three jobs until February 2013. I don’t know what I was thinking.
In March I worked 18 – 20 hours a week. That was incredible. A breath of fresh air after holding my face in a murky mud puddle. Not pretty. I was working less, but had also finagled a part time work-trade with San Francisco CrossFit in order to continue my membership at the gym. March quickly turned into April and there was yet another job opportunity that I could not pass up. As soon as I heard about the Office Manager position at San Francisco CrossFit, I knew I had to pounce. So I did. By mid April, I was hired on to the San Francisco CrossFit Team and have never been more proud to accept a paid position.
Between April and July, I toggled between work modes and ran a tight ship. There was little room for error between two double shifts and a 6 day work week. Though my social life has suffered, I’ve met amazing new people, planned a bachelorette party, and accomplished several of my 27×27. In the past 4 weeks, I’ve worked one job, been out of town every weekend, and come face to face with the truth of being a total workaholic.
I won’t shut up about it. Sometimes it feels like all I do is talk about work and how much and all the time and complain complain complain. I was on the phone with my sister, explaining yet again why I wasn’t available to hang out. Work work work. “I work soooooo much, this is crazy.” There was a short pause. “So why do you do it?” She asked. “I don’t know! I’m sick. I’m totally sick. I suppose I am just not suffering enough. Otherwise, it would be different already” was my reply.
I believe this to be true. In situations where we are the ones in control, we must often suffer severely before we are moved to make significant changes. I am still completely perplexed as to why I kept saying yes to more work. I’m confounded as to why I still have 2 jobs and no vacation planned. Even during the 2 weekends I was away, on non-work related trips, I returned drained and exhausted rather than rejuvenated. How is this possible? Oh, sweet suffering, reveal my limits and let me know personal responsibility. It is a strange and wondrous thing to realize how out of line you are with your own values. Wake up call! This is not how you want to live your life.
If you’ve made it this far, you may be asking “Why does this story matter?” I’m impressed if you’ve read to this point because this is a total “Dear Diary” post. But let me tell you! Perhaps you’ve read this far and thought “Shit, I totally do that too.” Or “I feel this way sometimes, but how do I know that I’m not in line with my values?” Realizing that we are not living the life we want to live is the first step to acknowledging we are not living in accordance with our values. Do you say one thing and do another? This is a pretty good sign that you are confused about your values and not living in line with them. For example, if I tell you that my friends and family are my priority, but I work all the time and never see them, then you can tell me that I’m full of shit. Actions speak louder than words.
I am using my story about the past year as an example of a wake up call. It is not glamorous, it’s actually down right painful. It brutally sucks. But now that I can see how gross and distorted my decision making process has been, it is opening up space for action! This is exciting! This is a learning opportunity to avoid repeating mistakes in the future. Once we see what motivated us to make the decisions we did, we can look at how they do not align with how we want to live our lives. Or maybe they DO – it’s helpful to recognize how we set ourselves up for success so we can recreate it. Most importantly you have to choose one action that will help you live your values on a daily basis. Here are some examples.
Wake up call! I am not in line with these values:
- Family and friends
- Free time to be creative
- Realizing I don’t need 3 jobs to survive in SF
- Recognizing that it was my choice to work the extent of my contract and to stick around
- Coming to terms with the fact that staying for the community can be enough for a while, that I want to be busy to distract myself from other crap, and because it makes me feel useful.
- Admitting I am feeling unhealthy and miserable
- Cutting back hours
- Taking a month to work very little
- Setting aside time to do important things with friends and family
- Taking a sick day
- Reflecting, talking, and writing about my process
- Asking for help: my family helped me move, my friends have gone out of their way to visit me at work, they have been forgiving and supportive when I have been tired and M.I.A.
My next steps are going to involve a few things from the action list above. First off, I need to cut back my work hours. My work week is not dialed in enough to feel sane. I need to plan a vacation just for me. This is extremely important psychologically. If I can give myself one piece of advice, I say this “If you are feeling burnt out and temporarily insane, it is time to be SELFISH. Do something completely indulgent for yourself that feels special and is in line with your core desired feelings 100%”. Important side note: do NOT allow yourself to feel guilty about this. If you feel guilty, as punishment, tack on another day of vacation.
I had Interchange week 7 this past weekend. The focus was Deconditioning. A fun exercise that we did was writing self defining declarations. We began by brainstorming and remembering times when we felt most like ourselves. Our aim was to come up with optimistic statements versus affirmations and to describe what we do rather than what we are. Rather than typing up my notes I am going to share the first draft of what I wrote.
A self defining declaration written in 20 minutes.
“Stille Wasser sind tief” my mother says to me in German. I am as calm deep blue as the ocean, embracing ever-changing tides, weathering storms, and washing up on sandy beaches. I am fascinated by the world around me, exploring the activities and ideas that speak to my authentic self.
I am creative and optimistic in my outlook on life . I exercise this through not subscribing to clicks, but rather cultivating my own tribe of vagabonds, rabble-rousers, and misfits. “Prost!” we cheer as we clank biersteins, champagne flutes, whiskey shooters, and martini glasses. We keep it classy at our underground sweaty parties.
I choose to do things with intention: if you can’t get out of it, get into it. Act how you want to feel. Fake it till you make it over the moon and you are so high you barely know which way is up. Redefine success for yourself. I do things because they lite me up. I love myself like my life depends on it. I seek out Fun Type B because I won’t rest till I know myself inside and out.
I love fiercely. I ride my bike and feel the wind in my hair as it breaths on my neck and whispers “freedom” into my ear. I act like I may only live another year, fueled like I may live another 300. I strive to accept myself as I am today. I explore my sexual and sensual nature, knowing that in the depths of these waters are multiple orgasms: because Life is That Good. There are experiences of ecstasy and unity waiting to be had that currently may seem unimaginable.
I play because it makes me strong. I aspire to be a ninja-woman with cat-like reflexes and motivate others to celebrate their bodies through movement. Do it because it needs to be done. I am an idealist, wandering, but not lost.
Love, strength and vigor!