New Mountains to Climb

A friend recently shared this commencement speech with me.  It was moving in many ways.  I am proud and honored to be embarking on this new journey that will be, above all, challenging my mind with new information.  I respect myself enough to continue my self-improvement and to keep growing mentally.  I thirst for all that knowledge.

What are days like today really about?

We live our lives, we try to be decent and honorable under difficult circumstances,

we get up each morning knowing that the road ahead isn’t easy,

that the shadows may be filled with uncertainty – days and days go by like this.

Until they become years.

And you wonder where the time went – you ask yourself, what was important in all that

time?

What did I do that was good and right?

When did I get recognized for my struggle?

When was my worth as a human being celebrated?

When did I count? When did I matter?

Yes, time rushes by and sometimes it a blur with no definition, no pattern, no signs of

progress and evolution.

But there are times in life, when the moment actually slows down and the mind is

allowed to stop.

It’s those times when you come to a crossroads and you’re allowed to look around and

take stock of where you’ve been and how you got there.

These moments take you to the threshold of a new reality – a new reality defined by new

possibilities in your life.

These moments often come unexpectedly — and they could be anything.

They could be the first time you wrote you name on a piece of paper.

Or the first time you road a bicycle.

Or the first time you understood something about God.

Or the first time you knew that someone really loved you.

Or the first time you moved to a new city.

Or the first time you signed a lease on your own apartment.

Or the first job.

Or the first time you did something you never expected to do.

Birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, marriages, divorces, funerals – these are all threshold

moments, the crucial coming-of-age events, that define who you are at a particular time and place.

The moments that make you, you.

Moments when time stops and you look around and you understand who you are and

where you might be going.

A graduation – whether its kindergarten or a PhD – is one of the most important coming-
of-age moments in a person’s life.

When you can stop and breathe and look around and take stock of where you’ve been,

how you got there, and where you are about to go.

Now, what exactly is a graduation?

Why is it to important?

Thousands of people graduate from school every year in the United States.

Why should we care?

To understand graduations, it’s important to understand the long road that lead to this

wonderful day.

You are here today because you decided to take care of something.

You decided to take care of your mind.

Your mind.

It sounds so obvious – that we need to take care of our minds.

But most people are so busy taking care of their bodies, their bank accounts, their lovers,

their homes, their enthusiasm for sports and video games, the silly melodramas of daily

life – that too many times the mind is the last thing they think about.

The mind is so often taken for granted.

People figure, well as long as I’m not losing my mind, then I’m doing okay!

Well, the good news is, you’re not like most people.

We’re here today because none of you would put your mind last.

Each of you knew that you needed to feed your mind,

to allow it to grow,

to fertilize it with new ideas and discoveries,

to take the raw material you were given at birth and grow beautiful new ideas there,

to bring the outside world in the form of books and ideas and lectures and conversations

and quiet meditation into the deep places in your mind where your dreams are born.

And this is so important to do because your mind is so many things.

First, your mind is a cathedral.

It’s here, in your mind, where you first understand the meaning of transcendence and ask

yourself – what is bigger than me?

Who made me and the world?

Where do I come from?

What does all this mean?

What does it mean that I’m here in this world right now?

What’s my purpose in life?

Why was I born a person and not a butterfly?

Is anyone out there watching me?

What is good and why should I do good?

Where does goodness and honor and beauty and truth and love come from?

Who set the stars in motion and created this beautiful world of perfect biological balance?

When I die, where do I go?

Why do I feel connected to other living things?

Why do I feel that love is the most important and powerful force in the world?

When I close my eyes and try to listen for the sounds in my soul, what will I hear?

Second, your mind is a laboratory.

It’s not very large – the brain that houses our minds.

In terms of weight, it only takes up about 2% of our body weight. It’s about 78% water.

Yet it has 100 billion neurons.

By comparison a leech only has 350 neurons.

350 for a leech – a 100 billion for us!

So it’s not very big, it doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it’s mostly just unattractive

mushy grey water.

But – what an incredible laboratory it is.

It’s in the mind where you test life.

Where you observe what is going on around you and you process those events and facts

in the folds and chambers of the mind and you write your own definition of reality.

And it does that at the speed of light.

Trillions and trillions of times a day.

The mind is the laboratory where you try on different identities.

Am I powerful? Am I weak? Am I a teacher? Am I warrior? Am I a poet? Am I a

spiritual being?

It’s the laboratory where you test yourself.

How much can I learn?

How much strength do I have for the difficult job of just living life?

Where is my courage?

Where is my deepest fear?

Where is my longing?

What do I value most in the world?

What makes me happy?

What dreams make me smile?

What do I love in other people?

What do I understand of others?

Third, the mind is an entire world.

Close your eyes and you can image Paris, though you may have never been there.

Close your eyes and you can see deserts, the streets of Detroit, the Grand Canyon, the

White House, the inside of the atom, the far side of the moon.

The mind is an atlas of the whole world and at the speed of thought – far faster than the

speed of light – you can take yourself to any place your imagination can conjure.

You can create worlds that never existed.

You can see people and animals that have never lived.

Further, you can imagine yourself at any period in time.

You can see yourself marching in Alabama for Civil Rights, or dancing at the Hollywood

party with Denzel Washington, or sitting in Shakespeare’s theatre to see Romeo and

Juliet for the first time, or wrestling dinosaurs, or studying with Confucius.

No place or time is forbidden to you because you carry with you at all times the most

powerful passport on earth – the human mind.

Fourth, the mind is a storm.

Yes, there are times when the mind is uneasy.

When it doesn’t sit still.

When it’s full of noise and fury.

There are demons in the mind as well as angels.

There are times when the mind betrays you.

When it breaks under stress and you can’t control the storm of thoughts.

Times when all it sees is darkness and sorrow and fierce violence.

The mind, like any part of the body, will be injured and suffer terrible pain.

The mind cries out for peace and safety – and asks you to find a way to heal its injury and

calm the storm and bring peace.

No, the mind is vulnerable and needs to be taken care of, it needs nutrition and fertilizer,

it needs words and books and pictures and experiences to make it work as fully and

beautifully as it can.

Fifth, the mind is the birthplace of dreams.

You hear kids say it all the time – I want to be an astronaut.

I want to be a ballerina.

I want to be a baseball player.

I want to be king of the world.

That’s because a fertile mind is restless and it takes what it sees in the world and invents

possibilities for us.

We want to literally fly with the wings of eagles.

We want to sing in the sweetest voice the world has ever heard.

It’s the mind where your greatest ideas about yourself are born.

Finally, there are those who believe that the mind is God.

When Michaelangelo painted the Sistene Chapel he painted the creation of the world.

In his painting, God leans out of a great cloud to touch the fingertips of Adam.

The cloud that God lives in is painted in the shape of a brain.

Look at it. I’m not kidding. It’s a brain!

Michaelangelo equated God with the mind.

God is brain. God is idea. God is thinking.

Cathedral, laboratory, birthplace of storms and dreams, and God himself – the mind is all

this and much more.

So lets go back to my original question: what is a graduation and why do we care?

We care because this is the moment when we celebrate your accomplishments today, we

celebrate your respect for the most important thing we own,

the organ in our body that is closest to the spirit of Creation, to the source of our identity

and wisdom and power – the mind.

You said to yourself: I was born with this mushy grey mind and I could either use it or

lose it.

I could be content, like a leech, to use only 350 brain cells every day, or I could be fully

and beautifully human and engage all 100 billion little brain cells.

I could either let them all sit dark in the cave of my skull or I could light them all like the

brightest Christmas tree.

I could be happy with the routine thoughts that come so easily for me

– with the habits I acquired over the years

– the habits that make me sleepwalk through life

– never questioning, never engaging, just being content to passively feed my stomach and

nothing else

– to react only with my emotions and passions

– or I could push my own boundaries,

I could ask the right questions,

I could seek knowledge from others,

I could be unsatisfied with easy answers,

I could test my limits, I could strive for true wisdom and enlightenment.

So well done, you guys.

You made the right choice.

Every single one of you.

You wouldn’t be satisfied with what you were given and you made something better.

You worked hard, under difficult and dark circumstances – honestly, my friends, I can’t

image – and you wouldn’t give up,

you wouldn’t say no,

you wouldn’t take the easy way out,

you wouldn’t ignore the needs of your soul or the imperatives of your mind or the

questions in your heart,

you told everyone around you that you value thinking,

None of us know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

But today we know that we walked through a threshold and we took this ritual seriously

because it demands to be taken seriously, because we take our sacred minds, our

education, and our worth as human beings seriously.

Congratulations and good luck.

Baby Steps

Growing up is simply realizing that you are finally ready to do all the things you always dreamed of doing, but were too afraid to try.  It’s exhilarating.

 

Today I finished day ten of a 30-day hot yoga challenge.  I’m proud of myself for letting go of my fears and letting my body work it’s magic.  I feel so enlightened and I know I am literally transforming my body from the inside out.  All I know is that I feel incredibly strong.  Mind, body and soul.  Things are exciting.  My mind is more free lately and it feels wonderful.

My Mantra

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We may know where we want to go but do we have a plan on how to get there? Sometimes I feel like I’m treading this path blindly and have no idea what to expect from day-to-day. The moments are all so intense because my state of mind tends to change so rapidly. Living in the moment is one thing that I am still learning how to do. Enjoying whichever direction the wind blows me feels very free. I have felt that I am missing some direction or maybe its just that I don’t have enough constants in my life. I have been researching a bit on meditation and personal affirmations. I have never created one of my own so I thought this would be the perfect time for my first one. This will be my own personal reminder of who I am every single day. I highly suggest that you write out your very own mantra. I feels empowering.

I am strong, independent and loving.

I feel balanced, centered and grounded.

I will conquer this day by radiating positivity.

I will release the past.

I am completely free to be myself.

I have the power to overcome any obstacle.

Every day my mind and body gain more strength.

I can breathe with ease and creativity constantly flows throughout me.

Simplicity in my life is beauty.

I love unconditionally and will always be loved in return.

I am surrounded by many souls who understand me and I accept them in their entirety.

I will be successful throughout any endeavour I may choose.

The present is the home of my dreams.

I am blessed and eternally grateful.

Full Moon Confessions

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When we are young, our capacity for dreaming seems unlimited, pure and without many boundaries. Possibilities are endless because our canvas is still mostly blank, the future is waiting to be written. We have very few mishaps embedded into memory and nothing can stop us. We are children. We are innocent. We believe in everything and everyone.

Eventually we begin to develop more direction and start to shape our lives into what we want and need. There is definitely that moment when everything seems to make sense and we really do believe that we know exactly what we want and are even certain that what we want is also what we need.

Throughout my twenties, I was so sure that I knew what I wanted. I could not have been more wrong. I never put my needs first and somehow I always let someone else make me feel like I wasn’t good enough for them. Well none of those people ever deserved to have me in their life in the first place.

This new chapter and decade of my life has already changed me dramatically. I know what I want, even if sometimes I don’t know how to get it. I know when enough is enough. I know when to fight and when to let go. I know who I am. I have become my own best friend.

There’s a great lesson to be learned when you don’t get what you always, always wanted. There’s a reason for that. You deserve better. The main thing that I could never understand from the time I was a child until very recently was that if I loved someone and they supposedly loved me, why did they not choose me, why were they not with me? Such a dreamer I was and so fucking blinded by love. I deserve more. I deserve someone who will fight for me. I deserve someone who will take care of me. I deserve someone to be there for the good and bad. I deserve someone who will let me grow and change and make all my dreams come true. I deserve someone who is proud to say they are with me. I deserve it all. I deserve the world.

I have only just begun. My future will be a beautiful symphony of moments that most will never see. I will celebrate silently.

The Pursuit

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In many ways, my moods reflect the phases of the moon. At times I feel bright, vibrant and full; I rule my life in the way she owns the night sky. But after this fullness I do tend to dwindle. Parts of me feel broken, missing and I just feel, plainly stated, less whole.

I am fairly convinced that it is damn near impossible to explain in words the way my mind functions. But I am going to give it my best shot. I have a constant, fast-moving collection of what I would call an endless pool of data racing throughout my thoughts. I realize that it is normal to process many things at once and we all do this, but somehow the situation in my head has its differences and I’m sure of it. Often it feels like I might explode if I don’t release, share or document this information in some way. Most music, conversations, pictures, images, memories, art, observations, etc. set off chain reactions in my thought process. I’m visualizing what pictures I could take, what stories I could tell, what I need to document, how to understand the situation I am in, how to understand myself, feeling intense emotions and even trying to recall when I last felt the same way or was in a similar situation. I guess the things that I’m drawn to most are music, words and images. Writing and photography are the main driving forces in my existence. I’m most alive when I have written my thoughts out into words or I have expressed my feelings through a picture I have taken. These two creative outlets of mine always contribute to my happiness. Both are eternal. The words I’ve written and pictures I’ve taken will always live on. Forever. No matter where I end up, I can always take myself back to any previous moment in my life. Most importantly I can re-live the same feelings, whether that is something I wish to do or not.

I used to think my heart was weak and easily broken. Now that I have grown up some and know myself better, I have a better understanding. My heart is just very full. I am someone who will never stop giving and caring for an endless number of people. I love so many in countless ways. I will never stop myself from feeling. Although at times I did believe the answer was to shut myself off and try not to get attached in any way. I can’t and will not do that. I fall for people easily. I don’t mean this in regards to relationships solely. I fall in love with people and even objects and moments in general. My friends, my family, strangers on the street, those who are fighting for the same things as me, animals, the weather, nature, sounds, smells; the way all these things make me feel. My senses are extremely sensitive which in turn explains the way my emotions feel ever-changing like the wind.

I don’t need to build walls anymore. That is no way to exist. These days I really put myself out there. I talk to strangers, I wear what I want and feel comfortable with my body including all imperfections, I make mistakes and admit it, I speak up when I don’t agree, I ask so many questions, I stand up for myself when things aren’t right, I talk to men who I believe are way out of my league, I share my feelings, I speak my mind, I make countless mistakes, I make the tough decisions and live with the consequences. I also benefit from the way these decisions impact my entire life. The past made me mostly timid, shy and afraid to be myself. But I’m not afraid anymore. Somewhere along the way, I became this woman who is proud and confident. When I look in the mirror, sometimes I don’t even recognize myself anymore. I’m beautiful, driven, passionate, expressive, strong, powerful, proud, influential and helpful in the lives of those around me. I can finally celebrate all the ways I am completely unique. There is no force that can ever stop me or take away the peace I feel and pure joy I experience for being able to be exactly who I am. No matter where this crazy life takes me I will always look back with complete appreciation that I had the chance to exist in the first place. Life is amazing in incalculable terms. Count your blessings.

Moon River

If I could just turn my mind off tonight maybe I could get some sleep. My head is filled with racing thoughts. Old thoughts. Thoughts that should be retired. They always come back though, somehow. I’m hoping some deep breathes and mellow tunes will heal me right now. I’m feeling so restless and I refuse to allow myself to be sad. I deserve better.