Am I Closer to Freedom Than I Think?

Book Notes from: Already Free, by Bruce Tift

As we move with kindness toward what’s difficult, the disturbance—which up until this point has felt bigger than us—starts to feel more manageable. When we start going toward our fears, we begin to have the experience that now we are larger than they are. (And we are ok).

… the gist is that I am ok. I’m fine and most of my suffering isn’t caused by what I think, but by the feelings I’m having about something else (some person, someplace, some event, some outcome). And when I get close to the actual feelings, it becomes clearer the feelings aren’t going to kill me and aren’t actually harmful. Most importantly in the clarity is at their core, the feelings are most likely very useful – if I could just get used to the discomfort for longer than a minute (or 10).

Starting is always hard. Growth doesn’t happen right away, but practice can. Practice leads to growth, and eventually not having to practice – to just being. Things do get better right away – but only just a little bit better. It’s easier not to confuse a little with nothing. Years later it isn’t clear as to “when did this stop being a problem” (like when did I get over that person). And it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Things are just better.

I no longer have to approach this as a practice; it simply takes place spontaneously. I still get captured by historically conditioned issues at times and disturbing emotions continue to arise, but they happen less and less frequently and are difficult to take too seriously.

Just because behaviors used to be critical before – doesn’t mean the same behaviors today are not only unnecessary – but most likely the cause of most suffering.

The ways in which our necessary childhood strategies become our unnecessary adult neuroses is a basic theme in Western developmental work. These strategies were usually worth the price tag when we were young, dependent, immature children in our families of origin. But as adults, the benefits we get are no longer worth the price we pay.

It seems as if those who say the past isn’t important are the people that can’t let go of the past. So yeah, it isn’t about the past. It is about the present. And sometimes to get to the doorway to the present – you have to walk through the hallway of the past.

While Western therapy is sometimes seen as overly focused on the past, it’s actually about the present. It’s about how most of us are, in a variety of ways, living as if the present were the past. We’re operating as if we’re still young children in our families of origin, especially in the realm of relationships. It’s as if we were given a role in a play, and we got such a good response (and we’ve played the part for so long now) that we’ve actually forgotten we’re playing a role. In truth, there is a larger sense of self—a larger life—that we could be living, if only we were able to drop our unconscious identification with this character and become curious about who we might be right now.

Being able to let go – is a super power.

If we can show up without needing to constantly control, plan, or protect ourselves against what might be coming, then every moment is fresh, every moment is a new experiment.

Stop complaining for 30 days. Identify the feeling you want to not have. Sit with it.

When I’m working with people, I often suggest a little practice as a homework assignment. For some period of time—a month maybe—I suggest they drop any claim that there’s something wrong. No more complaints, resentments, or blame for a whole month, just to see what else is there. Whenever they become aware of a complaint, I suggest they ask themselves: “What am I feeling right now that I don’t want to feel?”

Eventually it becomes clearer the feeling isn’t actually going to kill you… or probably won’t kill you.

…if you can gradually learn to tolerate feeling abandoned—which is already how you feel; it’s nothing new—you may find it’s not going to kill you. It’s not going to harm you. It’s not giving you cancer. You’re not becoming dysfunctional. It is not pleasant, of course. Perhaps it’s never going to be pleasant, but it’s not actually harmful.

What is more scary… the thing, or the feeling?

Probably the feeling? the feeling is very uncomfortable. It is supposed to be uncomfortable. Like a stove is hot to touch. It is a warning. The feeling can be useful to avert a disaster if we can stop trying to avoid it.

It has to do with identifying the specific feelings and experiences that we have organized our life around trying not to feel and then, intentionally, going into exactly those feelings, especially as immediate, embodied, sensation-level experience, with no interpretation at all. The purpose is to find out for ourselves whether it’s true that we will be annihilated if we feel these feelings. What bad thing is going to happen? Why are we continually dropping into this sort of survival-level response, as if some really bad thing would happen to us if we were to feel these feelings? In my experience, going directly into the immediate embodied experience of our fear turns out to be a much faster, more direct way to dissolve neurotic organization than addressing the historic issues that gave rise to that organization in the first place.

Awareness: What am I feeling?

We wake up out of our familiar trance states, in which we have been unconsciously taking whatever we experience as if it’s the whole story—whatever’s happening, that’s the way things are.

Practice. Develop tolerance so the uncomfortable becomes comfortable (or more comfortable). That is a super power too.

We hate the experience and want to get out of it, but as a practice, we hang in there longer and longer. This discipline begins to increase our tolerance for the feelings that our neurotic strategies have allowed us to avoid all this time.

The feeling isn’t the real danger. Sit with the feeling. Maybe there is danger around the corner. But the feeling isn’t the danger. The conversation isn’t the danger.

“Yes, I guess I am a dependent person! I can’t say it’s my favorite experience to feel dependent, but after sitting with it over and over, I can admit that it hasn’t killed me.” Once I realized I was out of danger, it was easier to practice acceptance of the truth of my experience—which sometimes included feeling dependent.

What used to be a problem can become an asset… from a “have to go through this” to a “get to go through this”.

As we gradually become more and more able to go deeply into our anxiety—rather than be stopped by it—we discover that it’s not a problem.

The point isn’t the outcome. The point is the process.

…are. As you invite this feeling, try to bring your attention out of any interpretation into whatever raw sensation is happening. For example, many people find that the torso is the location where they feel emotional intensity. Check it out and see if there’s any agitation there. Perhaps you feel numb from the neck down; perhaps there is some sense of tingling in your hands, or aching or fullness or lightness somewhere in your body. Perhaps the experience permeates your whole body. Or maybe you don’t have any awareness of sensations except behind your eyes. It doesn’t really matter what you discover. The point is to be willing to direct your attention toward your experience at the level of sensation. Next, ask yourself whether this sensation you’re feeling is actually a threat in any way. Are you going to die from feeling a ball of pressure in your stomach or a hollowed-out chest or a heavy heart? Is the burning sensation in your solar plexus actually dangerous? Will the tension in your belly or your throat actually constrict you enough to kill you? If you find that experiencing these sensations is not harmful, even if they are disturbing, then experiment with a commitment to having a relationship with these sensations, perhaps for the rest of your life. What feelings arise when you think of this? What sensations?

Are any of these feelings harmful?

Do any of these sensations harm me? If I stay at the level of sensation, applying no interpretation at all, is there any evidence about my worth as a person? About my being worthy of love or not?” The answer is, I don’t find any.

We can just wake up. Just wake up.

Why not just train ourselves to use our disturbance as a signal to wake up and pay attention? To be curious and ask, “What am I feeling right now that I don’t want to feel? And is it a problem?”

Or we can shut down, or go to fight-flight.

In our culture, the two basic choices for working with intensity are repression or discharge.

We don’t see the world or hear the world as it is, We see it as we are. Heard that line in a movie (or show) the other day.

Our emotional reactivity is not really about what our partner has said or done, but about our not wanting to feel the feelings that have been triggered in us.

and… we are just making all of this up as we go… all of this.

We find that it is more true to say that we don’t really know anything with certainty than to say that we do. Even science has placed uncertainty at the heart of its methodology and focuses on describing the activity of matter and energy, rather than making claims about the nature of reality. Especially in the arenas of therapy and spiritual path work, we tend to be most certain about what’s most trivial and least certain about what’s most important. We know where we live, what we usually like to eat, what language we speak. We don’t know who we are, what happens when we die, the meaning of life, how to have the best relationship or be the best parents possible. No one has ever been able to prove just what it means to live the best life possible or how to do so. Basically, we’re all just falling through space, making it up as we go.

Creative Calling. Book by @chasejarvis

I’ve listened to a few Chase Jarvis Podcasts over the years and the ways he connects with his guest are always real. I’m also a big fan of his Creative Live (CL) app where I learned photography from the ground up – something that I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid – but never understood well enough to be even average.

I don’t know if I would be taking photos if I didn’t run across the Creative Live app. I don’t know if I knew I wanted to take photos. And I didn’t know I needed to read this book. But, I clearly did.

To “get” to this book, I needed to struggle with the “work” of photography. I had a very big misconception of what photography was going to look like for me and it is explained in this quote “the creative gap: it’s the distance between what we see in our mind’s eye — what we want to create — and the work we are actually able to create with our current skill set. It’s a painful disconnect. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap and your work will be as good as your ambitions . . . you’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I wasn’t thinking of photography as “work” or “a fight” when I started. I should have known better. Since nothing interesting or meaningful for me hasn’t included either a lot of work or a lot of fight (nothing).

This book is about the “work”, the “fight” and the “creation”. It’s about putting in the work and things getting easier and better. it’s way less about talent and way more about work. It is a slow process that builds over time (like Jim Collin’s Flywheel in his book Good to Great).

Next for me is maybe starting to share what I’m creating. Until then, instead of sharing a photo (today), I decided to share this.

Image source:


Image 1 of 25

Books I read in 2012

Felt like I watched too much tv this year…. But looking back, I actually got a fair amount of reading in as well.

What I read in 2012…..

Steve Jobs, by Walter Issacson

 Peak, by Chip Conley


  What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, by Laura Vanderkam


Feeling is the Secret, by Neville Goodard

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, by Stieg Larsson

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller

 The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni

The Five Temptations of a CEO, by Patrick Lencioni


 The Amatuer, by Edward Klein


 Venture Deals, by Brad Feld

And What’s on my list for 2013…….


Raising Cain, by Dan Kindlon


Enjoy Every Sandwich, by Lee Lipsenthal


Think Like a Futurist, by Cecily Sommers


Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig (Again – read in the 90s)

Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain


168 Hours, by Laura Venderkam


Who’s the Fairest of Them ALL?, by Steven Moore


The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni

For 2013, maybe a little less American Idol and more time for reading, or not....

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wanna Know More About Tim Ferris? Watch This

Kevin Rose interviews Tim Ferris – talking about everything from 4Hour Workweek to 4Hour Body and even his new book 4Hour Chef.

To me, Tim is a fascinating and for sure crazy guy with a lot of great answers and tricks for life.

Some of his stuff….

He picked the title of his first book 4Hour Workweek by doing analytics on google ad words

He went in to Borders Book stores and taped different versions of his cover to other author’s books to see how many people would pick up the different versions in an hour.

For more interviews like this check out Kevin Rose’s The Foundation 

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Resistance

Maybe the best “first page” of a book I’ve read in a long time.  Following on the current them after reading and listening to Seth Godin‘s Lynchpins for the past couple of months, I landed on “the War of Art” by Steven Pressfield.

Page One -What I Do

I get up, take a shower, have breakfast. I read the paper, brush my teeth. If I have phone calls to make, I make them. I’ve got my coffee now. I put on my lucky work boots and stitch up the lucky laces that my niece Meredith gave me. I head back to my office, crank up the computer. My lucky hooded sweatshirt is draped over the chair, with the lucky charm I got from a gypsy in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for only eight bucks in francs, and my lucky LARGO name tag that came from a dream I once had. On my thesaurus is my lucky cannon that my friend Bob Versandi gave me from Morro Castle, Cuba. I point it toward my chair, so it can fire inspiration into me. I say my prayer, which is the Invocation of the Muse from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, which my dear mate Paul Rink gave me and which sits near my shelf with the cuff links that belonged to my father and my lucky acorn from the battlefield at Thermopylae. It’s about ten-thirty now. I sit down and plunge in. When I start making typos, I know I’m getting tired. That’s four hours or so. I’ve hit the point of diminishing returns. I wrap for the day. Copy whatever I’ve done to disk and stash the disk in the glove compartment of my truck in case there’s a fire and I have to run for it. I power down. It’s three-thirty. The office is closed. How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matter is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome resistance.

Page Two – What I Know

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.

What keeps us from sitting down is the Resistance.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Real Artists Ship

After some back and forth emails with a real artist, Jessie from Stray Dog Arts, she sent me a link to a podcast interview with Seth Godin talking about his new book Lynchpins on the Accidental Creatives Blog.

It is a great listen and pushes all the right buttons.

I read Lynchpins a few months back and it has been kind of top of mind this summer in my daily journeys.  Its about becoming remarkable, indispensable and doing things that matter.  Acknowledging and accepting the resistance as part of being creative and inspirational and GETTING THROUGH IT.

From the interview….The days are over where we can expect Ford to open up a factory next door and pay us $120k to build cars.  It’s OVER.  What is replacing that is organizations big and small made up with unique individuals that are doing things that matter and most importantly without a manual.  To do things that matter and to do them without a manual you have to get over the resistance and you have to learn to ship…..This economy is punishing the fearful and and increasingly benefitting those that are brave enough to be creative and generous enough to give it away.  But to give it away you have to ship.

The single biggest part of Lynchpins that I think about is the Chapter on Shipping “Real Artist Ship”.  Who said that?  Steve Jobs (even when the antenna doesn’t work I guess). For me, there are thousands of things to get in the way of shipping – it can always be a little bit better if I just spend a few more hours on it – but value isn’t happening when something is still in my laptop or in my head.  If it is going to matter, I have to ship it.

And to ship it – I have to confront the resistance.

Am I shipping today or am I giving in to the resistance.  For me its not a philosophical question it is a daily challenge.  Next

Enhanced by Zemanta