The Intuitionist

Ok so I'm SUPER excited about this. It's about emails but you might be excited too so bear with me for a sec.

I'm gonna start to actually send emails to my email list. I think it's going to be full of helpful, fun, funny, inspiring, raw human goodies. I've been missing writing more consistently, and I want to share more. It seems like what I share here strikes a chord for some of you and it is an incredible feeling to know that what feels meaningful to me can also be meaningful to you. So I'm gonna do more of that, in a more official way.

I've let my email list idle for years because I felt like my blog had to be like.. about art. Art tips, technique, that lead to sales pitches etc. I do love that stuff and think it's vital, but it never felt right for me. So, rather than do what I think is expected of me as An Artist, I'm going to do what I feel called to do as A Human.

It's going to be called The Intuitionist. 'Cause all the things I make and do and write and draw and say somehow lead back to working with one's own intuition. Intuition is the string that ties all my varied projects together and what I want to shout about all the time. It's about getting to know who YOU ARE. Not about who you want to be or who you think you should be or who you are expected to be but who you ARE. It's reality-based--it starts in the present with exactly what is there. And then action is taken based on feelings within you after all the knowledge about reality is gathered. I also believe that if everyone acts in accordance with both the reality of the world and themselves, and do what they feel moved to do after that.. well we could be living in and creating a much more enjoyable reality.

I don't know where this all will lead but in coming to know the reality of myself more and more, this *feels* like the next right step. (Tryna walk my talk here!) The amazing thing that each of us can offer is our own perspective, our voice, sharing the way we see the world. I want to use my voice to help friends and family and strangers get to know themselves better--with practical, actionable ideas of steps to take--so they can put more of themselves in the world. I want to empower everyone to know and share themselves. I think this is the way we change the world.

I don't mean to insinuate that everything I say or do or share is going to be groundbreaking. A lot of the things that ignite us are very simple, and a lot of what I like to share are reminders of getting back to basics. I just think that if we *are* going to change the world together, well then here's another way I can start taking small, consistent steps with and for you. I want us to strip down together to the very essence of who we are and leave all pretense and excess aside.

Very long winded intro aside, if you feel called to join me, you can sign up for these weekly INTUITIONIST emails here: http://eepurl.com/cXq2uD

Go Slower? Stop Pushing?

Painting from tonight's ideas.

Painting from tonight's ideas.

I've always been a pusher. Assertive. Goal oriented. Ambitious. Determined to achieve greatness, to help the masses, to be like Oprah, but with art instead of tv. I also want to be rich and skinny and as long as I keep pushing, I'll get all the things I want right? Because I'm a dreamer AND a do-er. Right? I do everything in my power to get there, and the results will follow. Right?

Well, I guess this must be one of those handy and super enjoyable processes of learning a god damn life lesson. Because the answer is not always "right!" like we millennials have all been spoon-fed since birth...  "You can do anything you set your mind to!" "If you can dream it, you can do it!" "Hard work pays!" "Practice makes perfect!"

Sometimes, yeah, that's how it works. But sometimes, you put your entire being into something and give it your all, and you don't get the results you wanted, the results you worked so hard for. But the rules say that's not how it should happen! So then.. is it MY fault that I didn't win? Did I not try hard enough? Am I weak? Is something wrong with me? Am I doing things wrong? 

No, dude! Sometimes things are really and truly out of your control. *GASP*. I said it.. we can't take credit for everything "good", but we also can't blame ourselves for everything "bad." So maybe, just maybe, we can cut ourselves some slack.

It is so very revealing how change can be so uncomfortable, confusing, and threatening for those around us. I suppose that this is one of the strongest reasons why most human beings remain uncomfortably within the box that others see as appropriate for them. True autonomy is lived only by standing on your own two feet, and walking wherever they take you.
— Adyashanti via Ben Paul

My therapist has been telling me to slow down for months. I took some naps. But I don't think I really "got" it. See, I've been doing everything right for a really long time. Pushing myself as hard as I could. And where has it gotten me? Not to my goals, I can tell you that. In fact, I'm willing to bet that all this pushing hasn't been helping my health.

Yes, I've made progress, but for all my blood, sweat, and copious amounts of tears, I'm nowhere close to where I want to be. I've had issues with chronic fatigue for as long as I can remember, and earlier this year finally got some scientific validation for what I felt in my body. Very very long story short, after western medicine, chinese medicine, and now energy medicine, 5 million appointments, thousands of dollars, dozens of prescriptions, blood tests, weekly IV injections, check ups and countless disappointments, I *STILL* don't feel better. What the fuck, right? I did EVERYTHING possible, I adhered to all the diets, I took every advice, I went above and beyond. And I'm STILL here.. sleeping 12 hours a day, having only enough energy to work 3 hours a day *just* making ends meet, 20+lbs more than I'd care to be, with the acne I had in high school. After putting in the work and not getting my just desserts... I'd never felt more disappointed, frustrated, depressed.

At my breaking point last week, I texted my therapist. Her reply:

You need to find a way to be nice to yourself and maybe not hold yourself to such high expectations. It is not about not living your fullest- it is about accepting that because of your autoimmune illness, that the way you live your life might look different; same as would be for someone else who is vision impaired or has lost a limb- they like you have to find ways to compensate differently, but it doesn't make them less- they just learn new ways of doing things and they set different expectations.

That message did not make me feel good, but it did feel true. I sat with the idea. It felt like giving up, but it also felt incredibly light. A relief. Was it really okay ok to let up on myself? Wouldn't that make me a quitter? To quit pushing.. that makes me a quitter, right? Wrong again, my friend. I have a deep, peaceful feeling that quitting could be the best thing you ever do for yourself and for the people you aim to serve.

So, I quit. I'm not going to push any more. I trust myself to not fall off the wagon.. whatever shit/limitations I've got going on right now, I'm done expecting for it to be temporary and bend to my will. I am not going to give up trying to heal, but I surrender to where i am. I accept the possibility that my condition/limitations may not improve. It feels really good to stop pretending I'm "normal", to allow those who love me to express that love with support and help, knowing/trusting that I will give back/return the love as best I can, when I can. Allowing myself the space and time I need does not make me lazy or selfish. It gives me integrity. I accept me, even though it's not who i planned on being. she is still beautiful, still inspiring, creative, funny, supportive, innovative, enough. 

After all, as my first therapist would say: we are human beings, not human doings. Ugh, did I just learn to love *ALL* of me? Barf.

relax.jpg
Before every personal major break-through in my experience there is usually a struggling.
There’s usually a “ah...I don’t want this to be like that, life’s so hard, damn it!”
There’s a “why does it need to be that way, life?”, “can’t it just be easy and flowy and cozy and nice?”
”No, it can’t”, life answers.
”It’s cause you’re here to grow. You’re here to evolve.”, life says.
Then sometimes - after days of imagining how it should be different - there seems to be a letting go of the “I want this to be different, life!!!”.
Then...more or less consciously something like “alright life, I don’t understand this fully yet, but let’s do it - even if I have to struggle and suffer as a human from time to time. I’m ready for it.” comes into place...
And then life goes like: Whoooooooooooosh.
Life becomes so happy that it overwhelms me and overtakes me. The joy and love seem endless. The peace seems deeper than the ocean.
Then I know: Something of me has just died. Some part of me I don’t need anymore has just let go into the ocean of life.
Let the next wave come.
I’m ready.
— Ben Paul // facebook.com/benpaul.io

Anyway, here's to naps. And weed.

 

 

Whiplash Review: Musings on Ambition

I watched the movie “Whiplash” this week. It sticks in my head, which may or may not be the sign of a good movie. While I loved the cinematography, music, and artistry of the movie, the moral or the story or something like that is lodged in my brain in a negative way.

The film is about a 19-year old drummer attending the most prestigious music school in the country. At first, I was really inspired by his passion and determination to become the greatest drummer of his time—he practiced almost non-stop, with razor sharp focus, and he improved. I thought, “hey, there’s something to learn here. I should really FOCUS more…”

If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know how it ends.. stop reading now, go watch it and come back. Anyways, he devoted himself so fully to becoming "the best,” he alienated himself pretty much completely; he had no friends, pushed away a potential girlfriend, and even got into a car accident which could have ended his life. A big part of his actions were fueled by the desire to earn the favor of his family and his conductor, who had an equally intense focus and would berate his students constantly to “push them to be better.” We find out at one point that one of his previous students developed depression during his term with the conductor, and hung himself.  Now, I’m all for ambition and passion, I think it’s magic and it helps you slog through the dirty work of becoming an expert in your field. But I think pushing yourself or others so hard that it damages your health and relationships, with oneself and those around you, is no bueno. 

The way I see it, relationships are life. They are the priority. They are our lifeblood. Without them, we are only shells of what we could be. Ambitious pushing fueled by anger and a desire to earn power and a sense of worthiness bestowed by others (be it family or a conductor) can only get you so far. It leads to burn out, depression, and anger. We need relationships if we want to win the ultimate race. We need to nurture ourselves and each other. It’s like the story of the tortoise and the hare—the hare might sprint and get ahead in the short term, but if we’re gonna maintain our passion for the long haul, we need to be the turtle. We need to maintain a steady flow of positive influences and inspiration if we’re gonna play this game for any significant amount of time.

Also, I think, what’s the point of being the best? I will be the first to admit that I of course, always, want to be the best! But why? If the point of being the best drummer is to share a quality of music that’s never been made before and inspire people, then I think I could get behind it. But the way the drummer and the conductor behave and talk about being the best seems to strongly suggest it’s merely a prize for the ego. And I think we all know that even if they ever did win that ego prize, they still would feel inadequate and angry.

I guess my point is: I think we have to make sure our priorities are in order if we want to be content during the long process (and at the eventual end) of our journey towards expertise and creativity. PEOPLE are the reason we’re creating anyways (most of the time)—to share with others. Over the years I’ve come to hone my main goal as an artist—to inspire people and help our society grow towards increased mindfulness.

Yes I want to make a ton of money and I wouldn’t mind being famous, but now I understand that it’s not because I want to have a giant celebrity mansion (though I am excited to be able to afford high quality essentials), but because I want to Oprah the shit out of my money and influence and use it as a tool to help when chipping away at my main goal. I already do this—I take classes, go to workshops, pay professionals to make my business on the up and up. It’s small scale now, but in the future, I’d like to go bigger, for example by opening a space where creatives can work together, learn new things, and grow their projects. I want to be a voice and use my tools to share knowledge.

So yeah, in short: people first. We’re in this together. This ain’t a dog-eat-dog world any more—we’ve proven to ourselves that that doesn’t work in the long run. If we’re gonna win this race, we gotta win it together. It’s a lot more fun that way too.

Well, maybe it is a good movie after all—it made me think and start a conversation with you. Thoughts?