It’s easier said than done, more often than not I find myself living in the past or envisioning my future. Almost unavoidably I find myself day dreaming about pitching the tent I recently bought for my PCT thru-hike later this year. Trying to feel what it feels like having blisters all over my feet and running low on food. Just a few weeks ago I wrote about my fears and how scared I am of letting go of my life. However there is a difference between being prepared and imagining how helpless I might feel. The same can also be said about my past. While trying to learn from it I begin to feel sad about a relationship that broke. Or angry about how my stepfather treated my sister. I can still see myself carrying so much resentment and hatred towards myself for not being able to help my sister and mother.

Learn from the Past

“Time heals all wounds”, a statement I heard a lot. Sadly sometimes those wounds are deep enough to not heal by themselves, or they get infected and you have to open them back up. Two years ago I decided to seek out professional support and started to go to therapy. Just talking about what’s on my mind has helped me to fill a lot of blanks. In one of our conversations I talked about my achievement of conquering Twin Peaks in San Francisco on a bicycle. While it was a great moment standing on top and lifting my bike overhead, more prominently on my mind is the physical strain and the thoughts I conquered while riding up there. I had always been a solo artist because I couldn’t stand dragging other people down or being the weak link in the chain. But on this ride I went with 3 friends and it was the first time I rode with them. I can still feel the shame of being much slower than them, fearing they would leave me behind, the relieve when I saw them come back for me as well as the anger with having those thoughts in the first place.

What I’ve learned is to live for the journey.

I started to allow myself to feel those emotions in the present. Began to recognize them for what they are and am learning to work through them as an observer. Non-judgmentally looking back and being grateful to have those emotions. It’s not always obvious so I try to understand why I feel ashamed, fearful and relieved. Just the fear of being left behind took me months to figure out. And I’m still uncertain I understand it completely but I was able to link it to being ripped from my childhood soulmate at a very young age.

Live in the Present

Living in the present is having an intense focus on the here an now. While writing this all my sole focus is bringing my thoughts to paper, sorting through them and giving them the best structure I can. It is giving all of my concentration and directing my energy to the task at hand. Being present — I welcome emotion that might come up, I allow myself to feel joy for every new paragraph, every sentence I write. I give myself the freedom to feel and act from my heart, to write what’s weighing me down. Writing might be a bad example but I also try not to think but let my body take over.

The more I practiced the easier it became.

A year ago I started dancing and in the beginning everything is about the steps, the posture and the expression. Shortly after I started taking ballroom dance lessons the group I was dancing with got asked to perform in a showcase. Initially I was against it but after a weekend in Vegas seeing Cirque Du Soleil’s “O”, I committed to the performance. From that point on I was practicing everyday after work and on the weekends. It took a while to get the steps right and even longer to make them look half way decent. On the day of the performance, I stepped on the floor and everything slowed down. I stopped thinking of the steps and just did them. It felt like I had an eternity between each step I took, a feeling I never had during practice. During practice I always tried to catch up with the music.

Dancing in the moment became an expression of my feelings and emotions rather than thinking about what the next step should be. The appearance of my most authentic self.

Plan for the future

My biggest problem with planning for the future is what Christine Hassler calls “Expectation Hangover”. While planning for the future I envision what I feel based on the expectations I built up for it in my head. When those expectations are not met and I don’t feel the way I envisioned it, frustration comes up. A few months ago one of my friends hosted a poker night. It was so much fun so we all agreed to do this more often. Every once in a while I would bring it up but because I can’t host it in my studio apartment I never pushed it. So when I heard out about a poker night I wasn’t invited to last week I started feeling expectation hangover.

A long time ago I started distancing myself from others because I never wanted to feel rejected again. But over the last few years I thought I had finally been able to open back up and let them into my life. I expected to be included in events like that so I felt sad and left out. Once the emotions passed I started thinking what I might have said or done to not be invited. One of the thoughts that came up was about falling back in old behaviors, did I start rejecting again? I couldn’t shake the feeling so at lunch I asked one of my friends who was invited if there is anything I did that would result in being left out. He couldn’t think of anything or was to polite to share.

Enjoy rather than expect.

Life seems to short to be disappointed. But instead of thinking about what’s wrong, I can decide to not be my thoughts. I’ll always have thoughts but just like meditation teaches, thoughts are like clouds they come in and leave if you let them.

The 90 Second Rule

I came across the 90 second rule in a book I read by Tony Robbins — “Unshakable”. While this book is mostly about how to invest to reach financial freedom, a good portion of it also talks about happiness. Because one thing money can’t buy is happiness, even-though I used to think so. Why would I not be happy if I had more money than I can spend in a lifetime, sailing on my yacht and enjoying some cocktails while the sun is bronzing my skin, right? Wrong. But the good news — happiness is cheap. I learned I can be happy whenever I decide to be. The easiest path to happiness is gratitude, being thankful for breathing in clean air makes me happy to be alive.

You can’t suffer and be grateful simultaneously, you can’t suffer and appreciate things simultaneously.

Last Friday I was having a conversations with friends about poker. One of my friends pointed out that you should also play weaker starting hands every once in a while. He made it a point to say if you’re in the blinds you’re already invested anyway so it almost doesn’t matter and you could get lucky. Having read a lot about poker I agreed with him but used poker lingo doing so. Talking about position and loose vs tight hand ranges we almost got into an argument. While we were both saying the same thing, he thought I was trying to lecture him. I got confused with his reaction and the situation started to feel uncomfortable. Thankfully one of our other friends picked up on it. He understood I was using language that could be interpreted as lecturing but also got that I was agreeing and stepped in to ease over the conversation before it escalated.

Having this outside perspective is what the 90 second rule is about. Basically whenever I feel anxiousness rising, I recognize the situation I’m in, take a deep breath and step out of it. Doing that allows me to see negative thoughts and feelings for what they are. I can decide to let them pass and trade them for the positive. If I have a hard time finding the positive I can always fall back to being alive, is there anything more amazing than that? So why 90 seconds? Because it’s best to catch yourself within the first 90 seconds of this happening. I don’t want my brain to make a mountain out of a molehill.

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