Tag Archives: Leo Babauta author

How to Love Your Dark Side

31 Jul

We all have a side of ourselves (or multiple sides) that we don’t want others to see. You might think of this as your “dark side,” or the Gollum in you (as my friend Adam calls it).

It might be that you procrastinate, waste inordinate amounts of time on a certain site or game, drink or smoke too much, are jealous, ungenerous, critical of others, depressed or lonely.

These are not usually things we want others to see. But what if we tried to embrace our inner Gollum? What if we learned to love our dark side?

This is so against our usual approach that it might seem impossible. Love our inner Gollum? Absurd! We normally want to hide it, get rid of it, cure ourselves and forget everything about it.

But what if, instead, you tried:

  1. Telling someone else about your dark side, allowing some sunshine into this dark area of your life.
  2. Being gentler with yourself, and seeing this side of you through loving eyes. For example, maybe you are tired and are craving a rest, maybe you’re sad and want relief from that sadness. In this way, our dark side is not bad, but a (misguided) loving way to relieve our difficulties.
  3. Try giving yourself some compassion rather than being harsh on yourself about it. If you can wish for an end to your difficulties, and give yourself some love, maybe your dark side doesn’t have to be such a bad thing, just another experience in your life to love.
  4. When you start going to your dark side, pause here and allow yourself to just feel whatever pain you’re feeling, rather than going down your usual path of numbing or running away. Stay in the pain, and feel it fully. Immerse yourself in it, with curiosity and love.
  5. Laugh about your inner Gollum, telling others about it with some humor. It’s just another part of you, nothing to be ashamed of. And admitting it to others helps them connect to you in a more intimate way. Own it, and embrace it.

This won’t “cure” us of anything, but it is a gentler, more loving way of seeing ourselves, and dealing with the difficulties we face. I encourage you to try to love this side of yourself, as I’m trying to do with myself.

 By Leo Babuta
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5 Tips For When You Have Too Much to Do.

15 Ene

Too much to do, not enough time.

This is a perpetual problem for a lot of people, but it seems to be especially pronounced during the holidays. With holiday events, shopping, travel, family visiting … things tend to pile on top of our already busy lives.

But no matter what time of year it is, the problem is the same: our list of tasks is neverending, and our days are too short.

lengthy-to-do-list

How can we deal with this in a sane way?

I’ll offer five suggestions that work for me.

1. Use this as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. In the middle of your stress and feeling of being overwhelmed … you have the opportunity to be present. When you notice yourself feeling this way, drop in: notice how your body feels. Take a second to observe the physical sensations of your surroundings (sounds, light, touch sensations, etc.). Notice how your body feels as your mind is spinning with anxiety or busyness.

No, stress and overwhelm are not the two most pleasant feelings, but they’re also not the end of the world. And if you see them as an opportunity to practice, to learn, to get better, then they can actually be good news. They are your teachers, and this is your time to be mindful.

You don’t have to spend a whole minute dropping in, but just take five or 10 seconds. Just observe how you’re feeling, observe your surroundings, observe how your thoughts are affecting you. Just notice, briefly, and in that short time, you’ve woken up from the dream we’re in most of the time.

2. Realize that you can’t do it all right now. You might have 20 things to do, or 100 … but you can’t do all of them right now. You probably can’t do them all in the next hour even. How many can you actually do right now? One.

This reminder is meant to free us from the idea that we need to do everything right now. We can’t. So instead, this allows us to focus on just one thing. Just pick one task, and focus on that. Because the others, as urgent as they might seem, can’t possibly be done right now. You can delegate them, eliminate them, defer them, but you can’t do them all right now. So focus on one, and give it your full attention. This is the most helpful way to work, in my experience.

3. Pick a high impact task to focus on. When we’re busy, we often get into the mode of doing a lot of small tasks really quickly. It feels like we’re knocking a lot of things off the list, which can feel productive. But it’s just running around like a chicken without a head.

If you’re going to focus on just one task, it’s best to make it a good one. Something that will have a decent impact on your day, your work, your life. That probably isn’t answering a bunch of unimportant emails or checking Facebook messages. One important email that will close a deal, move along a key project, help someone’s life … that’s a higher impact task. For me, writing is almost always the highest impact thing I can do. It’s hard to figure out what the highest impact task might be, but if you give it some thought, you can see which ones are probably not that important, and which ones are more important. Pick one from the latter category when you can.

That said, you still have to do the smaller tasks. Answer the other emails, run the errands, clean the kitchen counter. I like to take care of those between the bigger tasks, as a way to take a break. Do something important with focus, then relieve my brain by cleaning or answering a few emails. The key is not to procrastinate on the bigger tasks by doing the smaller ones.

4. Be present with this task, with intention. Once you’ve picked an important task, set aside everything else for now. You can’t do them all now, so be here with the one you’ve chosen. Breathe. Set an intention for this task: who are you doing this for, and why? For me, I am often doing my work tasks for you guys (my readers), but I do personal tasks for my family or to help myself. Set a simple intention: I’m writing this article to help my readers who are struggling.

Then let that intention move you as you focus on the task. Be present with the task, noticing how your body feels as you do the task, letting yourself melt into the doing of it, pouring yourself into it as fully as you can. You might get the urge to switch to something else — just notice that and stay with the urge, not letting yourself follow it unthinkingly, then return to the task when the urge subsides. Remember your intention, then let yourself be fully immersed in the task.

5. Practice letting go, with a smile. Having too much to do, and wanting to get it all done as soon as possible … can actually get in the way of doing. This desire to get it all done is an obstacle. Luckily, it’s a great practice to work with this obstacle!

The practice is letting it go. Notice what you think you need to do (your ideal), and let go of it. Instead, tell yourself you don’t know, and instead be open to the reality that’s right in front of you: you can only do one task. Be open to that idea, and the stress will be lowered.

And as you let go of your ideal and open to the reality, smile. Be grateful for the moment you actually have, rather than wishing for the one you don’t have. Smile, and be happy now, rather than waiting for happiness to come at some unspecified date.

In the end, will these suggestions clear away your to-do list? No. You’ll always have a lot of things on your list, and not enough time to do them all. What this does is help you to deal with that fact, and make you more mindful and focused in the middle of that reality.

Life is too short to spend most of it stressed out by an unchangeable fact. We don’t have to waste our time and mental energy worrying about too much to do. Instead, we can smile and be happy doing what we can do now.

By Leo Babuta

 

The Way to Finding Powerful Human Connection.

17 Nov

BY LEO BABAUTA

As I write this, I’m sitting in cloud-filled rainforest at a retreat in Ecuador, surrounded by the calls of thousands of tropical birds and creatures, dense lush greenery, and some of the most open-hearted human beings I’ve ever met.

Before I came here, I had some anxiety about meeting everyone, worried what they might think of me, worried that I would be awkward at talking to everyone or not fit in. This anxiety made me not want to come. That would have been a huge mistake.

I realized that I was telling myself a story about how bad I am at public speaking, at meeting new people, about how unworthy I am of others liking me. This story was not helpful, and was getting in the way of me doing something with the potential to be amazing. So I asked myself if it was definitely true, and the answer was, “I don’t know.”

That “I don’t know” scares me. I decided I had to look at the “I don’t know” in a different way — so I told myself instead, “I don’t know, and I would love to find out. Who knows what I’ll discover?”

This helped me to get on the plane, and then I was forced to meet an entire group of 24 strangers. And I could see them as 24 people who were potentially going to judge me … or I could see them as fellow human beings, who have aspirations and who struggle, who have love for others and frustration and anger, who want to be better people and who are disappointed in themselves that they are not, who want to make a difference in the world and feel guilty that they procrastinate, who are beautiful but who judge themselves, who are so different from me in many wonderful ways but who at their core have the same tender heart of humanity beating with strength and fragility, just like me.

I met them, and smiled. I felt the anxiety coming up again, but I turned with curiosity to them. I felt myself wanting to run away and be alone and comfortable, but I tried to find their aspirations and struggles.

I opened my heart to them, and they came in with kindness. And changed me. And made the effort of overcoming my fear and anxiety of being judged and failing completely worth the effort, a thousand times over.

Human connection is not so common in our age of connectivity. We see lots of people but find our little cucoons to hide in. We don’t realize we’re craving a deeper connection with others until we find it.

It’s hard to connect, because cultural norms get in the way — we’re supposed to talk about the weather and sports and the news, but not our deepest struggles. We’re supposed to say cool or witty things, but not share our greatest hopes for our lives or the person we want to become.

It’s hard, but human connection is one of the most powerful forces available to us. We don’t realize we thirst for it, but we do, and the thirst is deep. When I find real human connection, it nourishes my soul, changes me, moves me to tears. I can’t count how many times I’ve cried this week. My heart feels raw, in a way that opens it up to further connection.

So how do we connect, when it’s so hard? I’d like to share some thoughts:

Put yourself in a place with people with your interests. This retreat is filled with people trying to change their lives and interested in mindfulness. That’s such a rare thing, to be with a group of people like this, but we each made the intentional choice to come here. Find a group like that — at a small conference, a retreat, group meetings, a running club, a tech meetup, anything. Do some online searches for ideas, but say yes to at least one.
Overcome your resistance. I always find resistance to meeting up with people, and big resistance to coming to give a presentation and meeting with a bunch of strangers. The resistance can keep us from ever getting out of our comfort zones. Don’t let it. The benefit of connection is so much greater than the resistance that you should push through it.
Smile, and be curious. When you meet these scary strangers, open yourself up. Smile, ask them about themselves, try to find out more. People often appreciate a good listener, and questions can start a conversation and keep it going.
Share when you can. While listening is better than talking, I’ve found that when I can be vulnerable and share my fears and struggles, people feel they can do the same. This is when you make a real connection, getting below the surface. It takes a little skill to know when you can open up, and how much you can share — you don’t want to share your deepest secrets as soon as you meet, but you can slowly open up, as the other person does the same. Some people are not comfortable opening up, so don’t push it too deep or expect everyone to want to make this kind of connection, but be open to it.
Open your heart. These are other human beings in front of you — and they have tender hearts and pain and hope just like you do.

Open your heart and see who you find in front of you and appreciate who you find. Be yourself, and trust that you are worthy of others’ love as well. Let others in. Give hugs.
Connect in groups and one-on-one. If you’re at a conference or in a big group of 20 or more people, it can be hard to really find connection. I much prefer one-on-one, so I’ll try to turn to someone and start a private conversation if they’re open to it, getting to know them better. I also value small group conversations, from three to six people, and think they can be great bonding experiences and a lot of fun.

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Don’t hide in your phone. Many of us have the tendency these days to use our phones when we’re in crowded public spaces, but when you’re going somewhere (like a conference) that has a lot of people, it’s a big mistake to shut yourself off. Instead, seek interaction, even if you feel awkward about it. I like to start off with a simple question, or sometimes with a simple joke that diffuses the tension.
Practice makes you better and more comfortable at it. I’m certainly not the world’s best conversationalist, nor the most comfortable talking in a group. However, I’m better now than I have been in the past, because I’ve been purposefully practicing over the last decade or so. I still have a long way to go. But it’s amazing to see the progress I’ve made, and the more I do it, the less nervous I get.
Use each other to dive deeper and find clarity. If you can have good one-on-one conversations, or even small group talks, challenge each other to go deeper into your struggles and challenges, aspirations and life purposes. You’ll often find a lot of clarity in these talks.
Use each other for continued support. I often offer to give someone accountability if they say they’ve been struggling to deal with a habit. Or if we’re both struggling with something, we might try to support each other’s efforts to overcome the struggle in the near future.
Make an effort to keep in touch. If you make a real human connection, find a way to keep up the conversation, and even meet again in person if it’s possible. If it’s not possible, make a skype date so you can talk face-to-face.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, nor to be any kind of expert. I still get nervous and awkward. But these ideas have helped me, and I hope they help you. Because simple connections with wonderful human beings have changed my life this week, and the power of the love from these connections has left me completely devastated.

When Resistance Smacks You in the Face

1 Dic

As a writer, one of the most frightening sights I face is the blank page. It fills me with doubt, uncertainty, dread, sometimes a bit of panic, and creates an urge to run for any distraction.

And I face this terror every day.

Whether I’m writing an article or a book chapter, creating something new is not easy. I open up a new document, and instantly want to go answer some emails or clean my kitchen or read that long article on magician Ricky Jay.

This is a question we all have to answer for ourselves: When you’re faced with the Resistance, what will keep you from running to distraction?

There’s no easy answer. Like many of you, I’ve tried just about everything. Nothing works every time, because the best plans crumble when you’re hit in the face by Resistance.

I’ll share what helps me.

  1. Sit there, and look inside yourself. Just because an urge arises to run doesn’t mean you have to follow it. I will feel the urge, and then sit back, and try not to take any action. I’ll look inside and feel the urge. Then I’ll try to see what I’m afraid of. When I shine a light on it, it’s not so bad.
  2. Think about who you’re helping. While Resistance is scary, it’s often not nearly as bad as the pain that someone else is facing. If you’re creating something that will positively affect someone’s life, then that’s more important than the amount of fear you’re facing. So think of that person, and put their pain above yours.
  3. Think about the gift of time. Time seems like such an endless commodity, because we never see a gauge that’s showing how much we have left. But it’s like reaching into a huge vat of cookies and pretending it will never run out. One day, you’ll feel around inside that vat and the cookies will be gone. Cookies, in this clumsy metaphor, are days in your life. Once you appreciate the limitedness of these cookies, you realize that you have to savor them, and not waste them. Each one is precious! So make the most of it: do you want to create something new, or spend your remaining time doing email and social media?
  4. Just get started. Usually all I need to do is get the ball rolling. I tell myself, “Just write one sentence.” Usually that’s something that’s so easy I can’t say no to it. So I do that, and things often flow a lot easier.
  5. Remove options. Cut off escape routes. Where do you like to run to? If it’s email, put up a site blocker so you can’t check email. Disconnect your router. Go somewhere that doesn’t have Internet. Or use a full-screen distraction-free writing app. Only allow yourself to use one tab in the browser — you can’t open more than one. Have someone monitor you or hold you accountable. Don’t let yourself run.
  6. Let yourself run. This is in direct contradiction to the previous tip, but as I said, not everything works all the time. Often I’ll open up a new document to start writing, and then immediately want to go do something else … and I go do it. I’m not perfect. I let myself run to distraction, but I’m conscious of what I’m doing. And I know that I shouldn’t do this for very long, so I only let myself do it for a few minutes. It’s like giving yourself a bite or two of cake but not letting yourself gorge on the cake. It’s OK to take a bite if you put the fork down right after. Sometimes the fearful mind just needs a bit of a break from the scariness, but don’t let it hide forever.
  7. Go for a walk. I will get up, walk around, sometimes even go outside and take a 10-minute walk. This walk is good because it gets me away from distractions and helps me think through what I want to write. Often I’ll come up with some good ideas on the walk and then be excited to get them on paper, and the Resistance will be gone.
  8. Talk to someone. If I’m struggling, I’ll find someone to talk to, and explain my problem. Often this act, and the need to clarify it and state it succinctly, helps me clarify it in my head. And sometimes the answer to whatever problem I’m facing becomes incredibly obvious once I’ve stated the problem out loud.

I’ll say it again: no one of these solutions will work all the time. But if we think of the struggle against Resistance as a cage fight, think of these ideas as different modes of attack. When one doesn’t work, switch to a different mode, until one does work.

Resistance will always be a tough opponent, but when it smacks you in the face, don’t collapse. You have more in you than that.

by Leo Babauta