Dare To Express

The Triumphant Return – Lessons Learned and DareToExpress 2.0

I swore to myself that I would not fall victim to inconsistency, to a lack of effort, but – guess what – I did. I took some time off from blogging to immerse myself in other areas of life, gaining the experience that will allow me to write bigger and better pieces here at DareToExpress.

I took the time off to focus on school. I took the time off to focus on my social life. I took the time off to focus on sports. I took the time off to focus on almost everything else in my life.

In some ways, it paid off. In other ways, it didn’t. Such is life; we try and do things to pursue a specific end, but, more often than not, things don’t go as planned. Hell, I’d even say that every time, things don’t go as planned.

Like Marcus Aurelius says, the art of living is more like wrestling than dancing: it is about being prepared for whatever life throws at us and responding to it the best we can. (Interesting note: though that wasn’t a direct quote from the Emperor himself, he did use the word respond instead of react) That’s one of many lessons I’ve learned during my relatively brief time away from the blog. Instead of trying to predict what will happen, and adjust accordingly, it is much more efficient and effective to adequately prepare oneself for every possible outcome. While this may sound daunting, it isn’t in reality: often, each outcome only requires a slight shift in a response. With a response, you are minutely adjusting and fine-tuning your default action to suit your outcome; with a reaction, you change your entire action based on an outcome. You change yourself in order to fit the situation.

With a response, you just are you and act from that base.

But I digress – I’m fond of doing that, because it lights my creative fire to go on these random tangents. It’s fun for me and I get to weave an interesting picture with my words.

Damn, I’m digressing again, aren’t I?

Losing Myself

What brought me back to the blog?

Passion.

Passion for what?

Creating.

During my time off, I’ve immersed myself in a lot of Eastern philosophy – Zen, Taoism, and I’ve been reading The Bhagavad Gita, to name a few. As such, by osmosis, I’ve been falling into a more serene, calm, and desireless state. I’ve been content, and slowly, my standards have been lowering. My work hasn’t been as good in school – and I’ve accepted it. I haven’t been the dynamite personality I usually am. My play has gotten worse in hockey, and, overall, I’ve been slacking big time.

There’s another word that I could use to describe myself: lazy. That’s what I’ve been for the past month-and-a-half or so: lazy. Utterly, completely, lazy. Of course, my inner Zen guru is telling me right now that there is no such thing as lazy because words are illusions and don’t exist and so on, but my ego’s telling me I’ve been really lazy.

I stopped caring about a lot of things, but paradoxically started caring about a lot more. I became more in tune with my own emotional state and those of others, and got more social. However, with my no-thinking state in place (that’s what this Zen-state is all about), I started to play into other peoples’ realities, to get sucked into their games, because I was allowing them to define me. In a way, by letting go, I wasn’t being myself, because I equated no-thinking state with not actively deifining my reality.

Ergo, I made no-thinking state and becoming a sheep, a follower one and the same.

I let other people dictate what I should do, and how I should do things. I gave my power away, because I wasn’t stepping up and acting, or, rather – being who I’m meant to be. By refusing to take action, I passed my power onto the next person, who used it to use me, in a way. In fact, around my closest friends, this has been the phenomenon at work – and I can see how they’ve been leading me more lately, which has been followed by an almost-imperceptible-but-still-there loss of respect.

I’m a natural leader, though sometimes I’m quiet and reserved. But I’m solid as a rock, am dependable, am a man of action – I get things done on time and with utmost quality. I provide an example for others to follow, I do everything with 100% conviction and faith in my ability and that of others, and am prepared for anything. I take pride in my ability to get things done and get them done well. I take pride in my ability to make decisions, and make the right one consistently.

During this time of Zen Apathy (as I’ll now call it), I renounced my position of leader. I seemed to give it up as I became more introspective and more concerned with my emotional state, above all. I became no better than any other man, who just sought to get happiness at any cost, and that’s it.

As I looked at myself, I realized that, by making feeling good my #1 priority, I was no better than the alcoholics and drug addicts of the world. Sure, their solution is external and mine’s internal, but the fact remains the same: we both predicated our existence on whether we felt good on any given moment. They lived for the buzz or the high they get from their drugs; I lived for the high and the buzz I got from myself and meditation.

The addicts’ addiction makes them get tunnel vision: all they see is this high or the next high, and they neglect to take responsibility for anything else in life. Their lives become eternally focused on the high, and they never take their eyes off of it, even while everything else in their lives crumble around them.

I, believe it or not, became the same way. I was so focused on whether I felt good or not that everything else in my life took a big dip in quality. Everything started to decay, and I didn’t even care, because I was just focused on feeling good, not doing what was right. I got away from who I was at my core because I didn’t care about anything other than my emotional state.

Weakness to Fullness

Something seemed to be wrong. I knew something was wrong because I stopped caring about so much and started worrying about other people so much more than usual. I thought that was just a natural byproduct of my Zen Apathy state – one of which was feeling love for just about everything, but not caring about it all that much. I fell in love easily – it was a strange thing to see, because I’m usually not like that. I found myself becoming attached to other people as I renounced my world and my responsibilities. In one way, I was unattached and free, but I quickly used that newfound freedom to attach myself to others. By trying to be free, I shackled myself in reality to a bunch of obligations I don’t think I chose for myself.

I finally woke up, realizing that, in my Zen state, I was being profoundly selfish and weak. I was being a coward. I was being all sorts of things that I didn’t want myself to be, just because I had made my decision to feel good eternally as the end-all-be-all of my existence. That’s weak. I deluded myself into putting up a shell of avoiding everything that might’ve tarnished my good state – especially making any effort. I was afraid, subconsciously. The subconscious is a tricky thing, but I think I’ve conquered it – and the ego, that dreaded three-letter-word – for now. Why?

Because, I’m back, with a vengeance. I’m not going to accept the laziness and apathy of my previous state. I will try to harness all the good feelings I can, but I realize that I’m going to experience a full range of emotions, running the gamut from pleasure to pain and everything in between.

I’m now starting to realize that happiness is nothing. True meaning in life goes much deeper than just happiness – happiness is just a starting point to a larger mission in front of us. Reaching “happiness” – as abstract a concept as it is – is a beginning.

The Buddha used to count peoples’ age from the time they were enlightened – enlightenment was the beginning of their life, for him. Their previous lives were just an illusion to him; they didn’t exist.

I think along the same lines. I’m not enlightened, and I’ll never pretend to be, but reaching that point of happiness is just the beginning, for me, not the end. From now on, I have the default polarity of positivity – that’s all it means. Nothing else. Before, I had accepted happiness as all that mattered in life, because I was desperately seeking good feelings, having been deprieved of them for so long during my depression (which is a long story in and of itself).

Now that I’m here, it’s nice, but it’s not… Amazing on its own.

Ironically, people spend their entire lives looking for happiness as some sort of end to life, some sort of “enlightenment” where life just is bliss for the remainder of your days. No, sir, it is not like that. I’ve still got things to do in my life, before I die. I’ve still got gifts to give, love to spread, and amazing experiences to be had. Just because I’m no longer seeking my happiness in these things doesn’t mean I have to stop doing them altogether.

Becoming an Artist

The real reason for doing these things: making them into artful expressions of my personality. That’s what it’s really all about, this life we have. I want things to be done artfully, to be done to perfection – not that things have to be perfect, but perfectly me. Everything I touch should be infused with the energy of my soul itself, so I leave no gift left ungiven in my life. I want everything I do to become integral pieces of the masterpiece that is my life stream, so to speak.

So I developed the Masterpiece Mindset, as I call it. Its tenets are:

1.I must treat everything I do as if I were crafting a beautiful work of art, from the soul.

and

2.I must give my full effort and attention 24/7.

I bet some of you are thinking – “Whoa Brett, if you treat everything as a work of art, does that mean you’ll do it really slowly and deliberately?!”

My answer: nope.

It means I do everything to the best of my ability, and so I project my personality in doing so. Everything touched my hand instantly bears my mark, in a way – I leave a distinctive style in how I do things from now on. This will be particularly evident in communication – writing and speech – but I’ll extend this to everything I do. In reading books, I’ll read fast, as is normal, but I’ll read every sentence fluidly. No skipping lines like I usually do. I’ll constantly measure my posture 24/7, so I’m never slouching. I’ll move fluidly, but always at my own pace – never matching the speed of the crowd.

I’ll make everything I do burst with pure energy, and channel that energy however I choose – as long as I am actually choosing how I do that.

That’s the goal: to make everything be completed with full effort. By allowing myself to fall back into “woo woo happy do nothing” state, AKA Zen Apathy, I didn’t do anything well because I didn’t see the point in it. If I wasn’t deriving happiness from doing something, why do it, right? That’s how I thought then.

But now that I recognize that there’s something more than just happiness. There’s a reason to do everything, and treat it like a piece of art…

Creativity.

By losing myself in Zen Apathy, I totally shut out my ability to create. Shut down, 404 Error Page Not Found, Blue Screen of Death, all those computer metaphors. I dismembered creativity and chose to be a mirror. Mirror of whatever anyone else threw in front of me…

…and then I wondered why life seemed dead and cold.

I know that the earth is not a dead cold place – in fact, I was so attuned to life that I wondered why a world I KNEW to be alive seemed to be deceased, or, at least, comatose.

I was holding my gifts of life back, my creativity, which reflected back on my environment. I refused to create, and life was struck from my world. You only receive what you give in this world, and because I wasn’t giving my best by being creative, at all times, the world wasn’t giving me anything back.

Notice how I said both me and the world were mirrors? It shows that everything in my reality was second-hand, wasn’t created or molded by any one sculptor, any artist. You know when two mirrors are next to each other and you just see the reflections get smaller and smaller into infinity? That was what my life was like. No originality; just synthetic copies.

On the bright side, I felt good. I felt really good, actually, during this period. This only serves as motivation for me to really step up my creativity and live my life like the piece of art it is. If I felt that good during a time of stagnation, I can only imagine how high I’m going to be soaring once I use my creative spark to set every waking moment I have ablaze in a fire of ecstacy and love (as woo-woo as that sounds). I don’t see any limit to my potential.

From now on, that’s my commitment. Full expressiveness through artfullness. Everything’s an art, baby – and I’m not the most artistic guy in the world, in the traditional sense. But I do have a deep love and appreciation for traditional art, and I look forward to making my life one of the world’s great artistic works.

Sound megalomaniacal?

Yeah, I know. It does. It’s ambitious, but I have the tendency to use a lot of hyperbole.

Vigilance

One of the quotes that drove me to try and create art with every moment of my life was this:

“In the way you do anything, you do everything.”

That was a clear spark into my shift to adopting the Masterpiece Mindset (patent pending). I couldn’t choose to “turn on” my artistic, expressive self when I needed it most – I simply needed that part of me to become a permanent part of my persona by making myself create everything into a masterpiece in whatever ways I can.

Hell, I know that I’ll always be asking myself, “What can I do to make this beautiful/artistic?” whenever I do anything from now on. The results: breaking down everything I think about what I do, and building it back up, brick by brick, stone by stone. I’m not sure whether that metaphor made sense. But from now on, I’ll make everything artistic like that, getting creative in how I do things.

Pause. One idea: taking a shower while standing on one foot. Sounds cool. Sounds potentially beautiful. But, above all, it sounds damn creative and a lot different from the mundane things that seemingly permeate my life.

No more. This post is one of those artistic things that I’ve been talking about here; it’s creative, it’s lengthy, and above all, it’s a representation of what’s going on in my soul. All I can do is share my experiences and hope that it strikes a chord with some people. That’s the exact opposite of what people normally do on blogs; they share tips they’ve learned from their “experience”… Or not. Maybe some of their lessons weren’t learned from experience. But we never know – and I’m hoping to break down that barrier by sharing exactly what’s been going on in my mind and in my life and giving some information that you guys can apply in your own lives.

With that in mind, here’s my advice for you guys:

You must, must, must get happiness handled. You can do it, but it will not solve all your problems on its own. Be happy with who you are, but realize that improvement is possible and is NOT inevitable. You can certainly go downhill if you decide to let go – but, then again, downhill is only in the eye in the beholder. I love being happy, but… There’s something else that fills me.

Simple shifts must be made in your life. You must take complete responsibility for everything that comes within your sphere of influence. That means your emotional state, in addition to every single one of your actions. If you can’t take responsibility for actively creating your reality, the little bubble of your existence, you will see yourself rise up and claim something new out of life. You will actively create a new life before you – a masterpiece, for the whole world to see.

That masterpiece, though, is you. You are already a masterpiece. Your life, your actions, can then take on what you are if you give of yourself fully, in the moment. 100% effort. Nothing left ungiven. You’re leaving your soul bare with every action that you take.

Through action and dedication, you will let the world know your value. Your gifts, your beauty, your masterpiece-ness, are all worthless if you hold it in. All is lost if you don’t give it and throw yourself out there, for every man, woman, and child to see.

Don’t think you have gifts or love to give? You do. There must be something you’re good at. Start there. Then work on your ability to really express love with everyone you meet. Make unconditional love your mantra. Once you lock eyes with anyone and they smile, you know you’re on the right track. You just have to smile back in order to fully give your gift. Other gifts include your presence, your focus, and your ability to do anything. If you’re even competent at something, just doing that is a gift you can give to the universe, for competenece is one of the steps on the way to mastery (and, by the way, you’ll never reach mastery, so start enjoying the process).

You must remain eternally vigilant, so your quality and effort never declines, so you always stay true to yourself and never let mere good feelings stop you from doing anything. Those narcotics in your brain, that good feeling, mean nothing whatsoever. Yes, it feels good, but that’s all it is. Reach higher, reach beyond pleasure and pain, and make your life into something truly worth living. Anyone can harvest good feelings internally; but it takes someone extraordinary to elevate themselves to something between a demigod and a trapeze artist, something between divine and down-to-earth painter.

Want to know why it’s so difficult?

Because it takes a tremendous amount of effort. More effort than you or I have ever expended in order to do any task in our lives. It requires constant vigilance and dedication to every single task you’ll ever do for the rest of your life in order to best harness your creative energies. This means full effort, every single second of your life. How radical are you prepared to be? Are you willing to give full energy and effort every nanosecond of your life? Can you do it?

Yes you can. You have an unlimited well of creative energy within you, ready to access at any moment. All it needs to come out is a little bit of prodding and determination. Nothing more than that. It’s literally on standby mode at EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of your life, ready to spring into action and turn your life into something exciting. All you must do is trust it’s there and BOOM! It’ll come out, simple as that. But the effort and the will to win (though I can’t tell you what you’re winning) must be there before anything else

DareToExpress 2.0

I’m now calling this era of my blog “DareToExpress 2.0″. Why?

Because there will be a marked shift in focus and style of my posts.

Everyone of my posts will be a masterpiece in its own right, a work of art. I won’t create any “throwaway content”. I’ll only post the best of the best that I have to give, whatever form that takes.

Sometimes the posts will be personal, like this one. Other times they’ll be completely focused on personal development, and things you can do to improve your life, yadda yadda yadda. Truth is, “personal development” is pretty simple from behind a computer screen; you can just read read read and think that you’re getting somewhere. You can implement little tiny “life hacks” that add something close to 0 to your life and delude yourself into thinking you’re living a better life. You can do some productivity hacking and boost your efficiency by about 5%, and then pat yourself on the back. But, in reality… That’s all one giant illusion designed to make you feel better about yourself.

Ask yourself: does productivity truly matter? Do any of these lifehacks really matter?

Nope.

Which is why I’m going above and beyond lifehacks in order to truly liberate people from the shackles of their past.

Each of my posts, from now on, will be totally and utterly complete. They’ll probably be over 1,500 words, at a minimum, and wil probably go much, much, much higher. In the interests of art, I’ll probably also make some pithy posts that may clock in around 200 words. Either way, my posts will be unpredictable.

Well, except one thing. They’ll be of great quality, every single time.

If I look at a post’s concept, and I don’t think, “Wow, I can’t wait until people read this. Their minds are going to be blown and world peace will happen,” I won’t write the post or even bother posting it up. Same goes for when I draft a post. I’ll be merciless in my selectivity. I’ll cut down any post that doesn’t reach my standards of quality.

Obviously, though, with my posts becoming longer and longer, I’ll be posting much less frequently. My posting will probably be anywhere from 1-2 times a week, but it depends on the concepts I’m throwing around. Each one of my posts will be published whenever I feel like it, but I’ll mainly publish on the middle days of the week – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – to maximize exposure.

I’ll also be pursuing my democratization plans I talked about earlier. I’ll hop back on the ol’ tumblr. and see what kind of magic I can build with the community here.

And, after all, community is all I’m looking for, besides love, hope, and… Art.

Strangely, I think all I’m looking for is inside me. I’m just lettin’ my gifts flow freely, no matter how much effort it takes or how “good” or “bad” I’m feeling.