Sitting in a Tree

I’m Quitting Facebook and Going Outside – How to Reboot Your Brain and Feel Good Naturally

By | articles, personal growth | 11 Comments

The past couple days I’ve been feeling so up and down emotionally. Random bouts of depression and the urge to cry come out of nowhere. I’ve been staying up till 3 or 4 am and I can’t seem to get out of bed. I feel no ambition and my desire to do ANYTHING has plummeted.

I keep going back for more coffee. Scrolling through Facebook… Like. Like. Heh. Scroll. Scroll. Like. Ting! A new notification!

Wait, 15 minutes have passed?

facebookaddiction

Let’s Fix This Now!

How about a can of Mountain Dew? Let me make a run to Dunkin Donuts for another iced coffee. Am I really craving that can of Monster Energy drink that my brother is drinking?

This sucks. I can’t seem to maintain attention on anything for consistent periods of time. The idea of actually doing something creative feels boring. Nothing is inspiring me. I am lonely. I crave attention and connection. Even porn sucks.

I’ve reached the end of the Internet. I’m bored. I’m grumpy.

Is this just a case of seasonal affective disorder? Am I really depressed or is this just a mood swing?  I can’t just point the finger at any ONE thing that’s causing my moods. But I have a hunch that I know what is.

Dopamine Deficiency

I believe the reason I’m in this cycle of stimulation is that I’m low on dopamine and other natural feel good chemicals. I’ve become so used to stimulating myself through artificial and synthetic means that my body isn’t doing this on its own. I spend 75% of my day on my computer or phone (that’s being generous). I’ve developed a tolerance and like any addict, I need more and more to feel normal. I’ve quit coffee before and have started up again many times.  I’ve even done a digital detox and that has worked wonders. Is it time for another detox?

Synthetic Stimulation

I sometimes forget I live on a real, living, and breathing planet. But I see life through the lens of the digital age and smartphone screens. We all know Facebook is a total buzz-kill. Yet we keep coming back for more.

I typically wake up and drink coffee first thing. Going back for more when I’d get drowsy during the day. Overstimulating myself through the scientifically-engineered-to-be-addicting social media sites Internet porn. I got into a habit of watching Netflix on one monitor and checking “things” on the other. The movie itself is often not enough to keep my attention these days. I’m so distracted! I keep a tab open for new website visitors, check my email for the 17th time, swipe left and right on Tinder, and send hopeful but sure-to-be-ignored messages to women on OkCupid.

Digital Brain

Each of those things gives me a little rush of feel-good juice. Dopamine or Oxytocin or some shit. Sure I would feel smarter or more enlightened after watching that YouTube video on “Bad Beard Habits” or yet another article on how to “Make 2016 the best year ever,” but inevitably I’d end up feeling depleted, drained, and depressed.

I cleared all my notifications. I hit inbox zero. There was nothing left to check. Now what? Go outside? Fap? Nap? Work?

Boring! How sad.

I Was Numbing Out

Whenever I’d feel bored or slightly sad, I’d reach for the fix. Pavlov’s dog. But the truth was that I was covering up some REAL emotions that are trying to come through. There ARE some stored emotional wounds bubbling up to my awareness in the NOW. These feelings are signals for my attention and self-love. Yet I was ignoring them and trying to stay productive and happy through outside means. I wanted to get work done and be happy, not sit there and face my uncomfortable feelings. I mean, I could just get a Tinder date or read another self-help blog post to feel better.

I know I want to go within and love myself through these sometimes lonely emotions. I think I’m over my divorce or I’m fine being single, but the truth is I get lonely and feel depressed for no reason. Or is it? The only way to find out is to actually FEEL those emotions and stop trying to get rid of them through artificial or digital means.

Time for a reboot.

Social Media Addiction

“Nobody Likes Me” by iHeart

My Emotional Reboot Plan

The benefits of rebooting your brain have been well documented by the anti-porn community. No matter your moral or ethical stance on porn, the science of how it can overstimulate you is real. But the case can be made for all other digital stimulation. I would reckon Facebook is more addicting than just about anything.

So I’m quitting Facebook. For as long as I can muster it.

The end goal is to be able feel and enjoy the little things in life again. To FEEL GOOD without needing constant stimulation. To be able to produce those feel good chemicals organically and with natural activities. To enjoy genuine connection with other people and nature. This is how we are meant to be.

How long?

I’m thinking 1 or 2 weeks. If I feel like I’ve come to a good place, I’ll consciously choose to add back in any of those habits and see what happens. If I can keep it up for longer, cool. But I’m not making it too hard on myself.

Reboot Part 1: Detoxify Myself

I’m choosing to cut out (or severely cut back on) the following forms of habit forming stimulation. These activities tend to cause dependency and it feeds the cycle of seeking stimulation, feeling temporarily relieved, and then empty and hungry again. These are often a poor substitute for real connection and love.

  1. Deactivate Facebook (the biggest culprit)
  2. Cut back on checking Twitter and Instagram
  3. Uninstall Reddit and Tinder from my phone
  4. Give up heavy caffeine (coffee, mountain dew)
  5. Cut back on Fast Food as a quick fix
  6. Avoid watching porn, especially if I’m just bored
  7. Check email once a day, not all the time
  8. Cut back on habitual Netflix time

Reboot Part 2: Introduce Organic Feel-Good Activities

The following are habits give me some feel-good chemicals and boost my mood but are a lot healthier and natural. They almost all involve being away from a computer screen and spending time with yourself, loved ones, or nature. You know, things with a SOUL.

  1. Walking in nature
  2. Working out at the gym
  3. Dancing
  4. Yoga or Stretching
  5. Playing volleyball or team sport
  6. Meditation
  7. Writing a blog post or recording a podcast
  8. Talking to my friends or family
  9. Reading physical books
  10. Conscious masturbation without porn
  11. Taking naps if I’m tired
  12. Tidying up around the house
  13. Eating more vegetables and fruits
  14. Playing guitar or piano
  15. Singing to myself
  16. Taking a shower
  17. Exploring a new city

This is going to suck at first, I know.

I’m going to feel like SHIT when I go through withdrawal. I’m going want to die. I’m going to feel bored out of my fucking mind. I’m going to want to find SOMETHING quick and easy to avoid feeling these uncomfortable feelings.

But these painful feelings will pass. 

Afterward I will expect to feel a lightness and sense of aliveness that has been missing. I’ll come to find joy in little things. I’ll have a lot more patience for sitting still and meditating or writing in my journal. My capacity for internal self-reflection will increase. I’ll remember what my true self feels like. My genuine desires will bubble to the surface. I’ll feel inspiration and love. I’ll feel grounded and connected to Mother Earth. I’ll feel whole and strong and capable. I’ll be more present in my interactions with friends and family.

All good things! Wish me luck.

White Roses

How sexual purity and slut shaming affected me as a man

By | articles, love and relationships | 2 Comments

I just finished reading The Purity Myth, a great book by Jessica Valenti about how “America’s obsession with virginity is hurting young women.” I read it because I have my own issues with purity I’m sorting out.

I can’t be the only man who got caught up in the purity thing. I was a proud male virgin up until I was 21. I “saved” myself for the woman I eventually married and wore the virgin label as a badge of honor. I also didn’t drink or smoke. I studied, got good grades, behaved well, overachieved, and was well-liked. I was a “good” kid by all accounts. Parents and teachers approved. Although rare, I sometimes got labeled by other students a goodie-two-shoes, suck-up, teacher’s pet, or just straight up “nerd” for not indulging in what I considered “bad” things like sex, drugs, or alcohol.

I was proud because I was “pure.”

To be pure was to be good.

Aside: I must say I’m grateful for a “clean” upbringing that allowed me to focus on academics and career, without “bad influences” and distractions. It helped me become who I am today. But of course, I realize NOW that it was severely limiting my self-expression and authenticity. 

What is this “purity” and where did it come from?

I grew up with religious and secular shame surrounding casual sex. I was taught that sex is dirty unless it is between two lovers – specifically a husband and wife, to honor God and to make babies. Casual sex was bad. You could get STDs and get a girl pregnant. Casual (aka promiscuous) sex was for sluts and losers and ne’er-do-wells.

Sex was supposed to be pure. Not dirty and tainted. You save it for the right person. You don’t give it away to just anyone. Additionally. I also learned to become ashamed of masturbation and porn. And that certain types of sexual acts were “good” and some were “bad.”

I wanted to be good. Good kids were successful. Good kids went to Heaven.

I also learned about feminism and observed how negatively girls talked about “players” and “jerks”. Guys that just wanted women for sex. How selfish and nasty! These evil guys, they are taking something from these poor girls! Gasp! They are abusing them! Subconsciously I felt, “I must save the girls!”

The female voices (which apparently I took as the authority) in my life back then were outwardly saying they don’t want that. Inwardly, I took on the role of being a hero or a savior. I wanted to be a “good guy” that treated “his girl” like a Queen. That was the “right” way to be.

This kinda worked for me, I had genuine female friends in high school. I was well-liked by girls, but not quite lusted after. They liked me because I wasn’t like “most guys.” They felt safe with me, would talk to me about their bad boyfriends and emotional problems, and I felt important and virtuous.

I’d feel sexual attraction to these girls, but I didn’t act on it.

I was afraid to be sexual because of fear of rejection or disapproval. Afraid of embarrassment actually. Shame. I really internalized this idea that sex was BAD and that guys were bad for wanting it, girls were bad for doing it, and the only GOOD sex was between two married people.

I basically castrated, cock-blocked, and rejected myself because of sexual fear and shame that is so pervasive in our culture. I had desires and feelings, but was better for everyone if I kept them hidden and under control.

This was difficult because I’m constantly exposed to sexualized media and pornified images all around me. There was easy access to Playboy magazines and Internet Porn not to mention HBO, MTV. and Girls Gone Wild commercials. Some of my guy friends loved to brag about their sexual exploits. Yeah, good for you bro. Talk about a mind-fuck!

Healing and Reclaiming My Sexuality

It’s only in the past couple years I’m finally starting to REALLY accept myself as a sexual person and that it’s totally OK! And that I define what my sexuality is, not anyone else. Not society, not other men, not feminism, not the media, and definitely not religion.

And before you recommend me self-help books about Nice Guys or anything by David Deida – thank you, but I’ve been there, done that. There are some great books for guys who are trying to reclaim their masculinity and sexuality. And Deida is great for bringing back the spiritual aspect. Those books are rejecting an outdatted model of masculinity while presenting a better “template” of what a guy should be. Worth the read, but don’t take it for gospel. Be your own breed of man. Actually, be your own breed of HUMAN because gender doesn’t matter.

I will say that this “abstinence” from sex during most of my life allowed me to develop my sensitive emotional side which still continues to be one of my most valued attributes in my relationships. So I’m not bitter about it! Sometimes these “Nice Guy Recovery” books, Seduction and Pick-Up Artist material can leave you feeling ashamed of how amazingly sensitive and kind you are. As if those traits are “unattractive” and you need to fix yourself to finally be worthy of female attention – or love in general for that matter. Don’t buy it.

I was into that stuff for a while. But quickly grew out of it. It’s not for me.

To be honest, my real healing came from real conversations and with sluts, porn performers and kinksters. They are human just like me. Some of the most authentic and honest people I’ve met. No judgment or shame at all. Real acceptance. It gives me permission to own my sexy and kinky side and still be acceptable and lovable. Thank you to the sluts of the world for paving the way for the rest of us to embrace our whole selves! That’s one reason I love Leandra Vane so much. We no longer need to reject or hide a part of ourselves that we consider “dirty” or profane.

Self acceptance and self-love are so much more empowering than changing our behavior to match someone else’s model. It’s scary because of the fear we have about being TRUE to ourselves. It’s rebellious. It’s dangerous! It can be terrifying to the powers that (want) to be. It directly confronts our fears of rejection and being left alone. Not just rejection from society, but spiritual rejection! How crazy is that?

We can simply embrace whatever we ARE, rather than try to be what anyone else says is right.

Embrace our truth with love and freedom will follow.

3 patches on Jacket

Patches for Starseeds, New Agers, and Awakened Souls

By | articles, news | 3 Comments

It has begun!

I designed three custom, iron-on patches and they are now available to order! Perfect for your jacket, backpack, or whatever. I plan to make more accessories like this, so this is just the beginning.

They are high-quality, embroidered patches with a merrowed edge.

  • 11:11 patch measures 3″ x 1.6″
  • Starseed patch measures 2″
  • Flower of Life patch measures 3″
  • Iron-on adhesive backing
  • $5 each or all three for $12

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Enjoy your new patches! Take a photo and tag @starseedsupply in them!

Needy

Is the Fear of “Being Needy” Keeping Us Apart?

By | articles, love and relationships | 5 Comments

One thing I’ve noticed in spiritual and self-help circles is that being needy is bad. Actually, it’s appearing to be needy that’s bad. It’s a really unattractive quality. It’s associated with being “clingy” or “codependent” and it supposedly is a cardinal sin in dating or attracting a lover. I did a Google search on this and all I found were videos and articles about how to stop being needy. Sheesh.

I think it’s admirable to want to be self sufficient and independent, and to self-source our worth and happiness. That’s all good! But I’ve noticed that I can feel quite isolated in my quest for self-improvement. That I will avoid being emotional or sensitive with another as to not be a burden on them with my neediness. Like it’s a toxic virus that will scare away anyone important to me. Instead I must go meditate, read a book, pray, go for a walk in nature, talk to myself in a loving manner – basically do ANYTHING else instead of “whine” to someone else. I don’t want to appear needy. Don’t want to be caught complaining or bitching!

I’m supposed to “own my shit” and not suck the energy out of other people. Don’t wanna be an energetic vampire now. Empaths, can you relate?

When people close to me hold back their emotions to appear “cool” or “not needy” I sense a distancing from them. Like they are too afraid to let it out and be real. Or too afraid to trust me not to leave them. And when they do present their needy and vulnerable selves to me, I love them even more because of the bravery and courage it took to admit it. Sometims I see them embody their emotion so easily, I wonder how they do it! How can they cry like that? How can they show anger so easily? Isn’t that BAD? When someone is really emotive, even unconsciously, I secretly admire them for it. When I’m present for this, and feeling “needed” in this manner, I can feel the love of actually being there for someone. It’s nice.

All the empaths in the house say “Yeaaah!”

When we try to hide our neediness, we rob others of the joy of being there for someone. By trying to always be self-sufficient and independent, we lose the graceful state of depending on each other. I feel alive and fully present when I’m being there for someone when they are upset or emotional. I want to allow them to get to a place of peace and empowerment. I don’t want to step in, fix them, or solve their problems for them. I used to, but I realized that’s not what we need. We don’t need “fixed.” We just need to be there for each other. Through this letting down of our guard, this vulnerability, we become closer together.

By denying our neediness trying to “play it cool” or “not seem too eager” we are not being true to ourselves. I wouldn’t let this out in front of people because I didn’t want to complain. And we can’t forget about “men don’t cry” and all the masculinity stereotypes. Or that being emotional is only acceptable in private. Go meditate and come back later when you’ve got your issues sorted out.

I just want to say that it’s ok to be needy. To say you don’t know what the fuck you want or have no idea how to figure it out. It’s ok to need a hug, or to want to be kissed, or someone to love you. It’s ok to text back right away. It’s ok to show up 15 minutes early for the date because you’re excited. It’s ok to message your friend and say you’ve had a shitty day.

We all know that we don’t want to participate in the negative, complaining culture that is so prevalent today. We don’t want to blame others for our problems. But we can at least admit that we are needy sometimes. Most of us are more needy than we care to admit. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

Allow someone the joy of being there for you. See if it brings you closer.

The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships

My Feelings on “The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships” (spoilers)

By | articles, love and relationships | 5 Comments

Update: Listen to the podcast I recorded with April Hanna discussing the finer points of this book as well as a female perspective.

I just finished The Truth, the latest book from Neil Strauss, and it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I listened to the audiobook version, all 16 hours of it, and it never had a dull moment because it’s so brutally honest and vulnerable. It’s subtitled “An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships” for a reason. Many readers might be uncomfortable by his controversial questioning of monogamy and exploration into orgies, sex parties, swinging, and polyamory. But if you’re familiar with Neil’s book The Game, you might have come to expect such racy subject matter.

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead!*

The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About RelationshipsThe racy subject matter is certainly part of its appeal, but it’s tempered with sincere honesty. That’s one of the reasons I like it. I’ve read all sorts of books about love and relationships, mostly from the self-help, spiritual, or pop-psychology genres but none have been so open, revealing, and entertaining.

The Truth is a first person account of all the things I’ve been studying lately. After my divorce and ending my 12-year monogamous relationship, I’ve been even more obsessed with relationship reading than before. Following my inspiration and curiosity has led me to learning about non-monogamy. I’d already read many of the books and authors Neil mentions including The Ethical Slut and Opening Up and the wisdom of Esther Perel and Reid Mihalko. Much of it resonated.

A Sexual Coming-of-Age for Men

As Neil tells his story, watching him start his journey in sex-addict rehab after cheating on his girlfriend was quite a surprise considering he had written the “bible” of picking up and seducing women. I had the ignorant assumption he was “living the dream” or was happy being a PUA (pick up artist) and was now famous for it. The beginning of the book brought him down to earth as he admitted he was a sex-addict.

The book then goes on to describe all the hard work he did in therapy, getting diagnosed with a bunch of disorders, and then feeling like it was all bullshit. So he broke up with his girlfriend (whom he still loved) to venture on a quest for the perfect combination of sexual freedom and intimacy. He tried New Age tantra orgies, polyamory clubs and conferences, swinging, Las Vegas sex parties with plenty of drugs and viagra, and even trying to live with three other women in his “Father Yod fantasy” relationship. It was so interesting to follow his quest for truth, love, and freedom.

Father Yod and The Source family

Father Yod and The Source family – The inspiration behind Neil’s polyamory dreams

This was all super entertaining to read. Vicariously living through him was fun. And as you might expect, it wasn’t all perfect, but he did have some of the most amazing times of his life. Including a “better-than-porn” foursome with three beautiful, sexually adventurous women that he considered his “sexual zenith.”

After a year of exploring sexual freedom and poly lifestyles, he still wasn’t truly happy or satisfied. However, this experience taught him some very valuable lessons about happiness, love, and self-worth. After digging deep into his childhood and relationship to his parents, he discovered repeating patterns for how his adult relationships take shape.

In the end, he couldn’t find happiness outside of himself. He quit all the lifestyles, gave up porn, deleted almost all his contacts, changed his email and had a friend block his social media accounts. After all this, he finally built a healthy and loving relationship with himself, which is the golden nugget in this book. He made a commitment to self-development and finding happiness within. He realized the difference between his True Self and his False Self. He realized that true love is our natural state of being and your mind and ego just get in the way. He learned the difference between toxic love and true love. He learned how to let go and surrender. To Love with a capital L.

This eventually led him back to monogamy, happily reuniting with his ex-girlfriend no less. The two went on to get married and have a child in what seems like a fairy tale ending. I admit, I teared up quite a bit at this part. But the story doesn’t exactly end there. They had their stumbling blocks and issues to get through. They made a commitment to nourish the three entities in the relationship. Him. Her. And The Relationship. When issues and triggers happen, they own them and are brutally honest with themselves and each other. They work on healing and resolving those triggers to grow together. This allows for even deeper intimacy and trust. The result actually enhances the sexual component of the relationship. And instead of fizzling out after awhile, it gets hotter and more ecstatic. This is the benefit of a long term pair bond. You can go deeper into truth and love, and with that comes freedom. Something you won’t find at a Vegas sex party.

Neil and Ingrid Strauss

Neil Strauss and his wife, Ingrid De La O (Photo: Michael Bezjian / WireImage)

So how do I feel after reading it? My conclusion?

Well, it’s awesome to see Neil try these alternative lifestyles so I don’t have to. Is his experience and choice to be monogamous going to discourage my exploration into alternative lifestyles? Well, the answer to that question lies in what I’m ultimately after. I follow my inspiration, wonder, and curiosity while simultaneously making a commitment to my own authenticity. If that leads me to a lifestyle that is polyamorous, or outside the mainstream, that’s something I’ll explore. I’m not going to settle for what I know just because it’s safe and familiar.

I’m going to let go of control of the “type” or the “label” and trust that the most suitable relationship type is out there for me. It’s already formed. It’s already within me. I’m in the process of actualizing or manifesting it. The primary relationship I have is with MYSELF and my connection to spirit. Everyone I attract into my life is another sovereign being on their own journey, and if we line up and are both better together, we will be inspired to connect. It would be awesome to share my life with someone equally as passionate as I am about this stuff.

If I find myself inspired to obsess over dating apps, I will. If I’m inspired to take a break and be alone, I will. If I’m inspired to forgo chasing a mate and instead chase my ambitions, I will. It’s all about inspiration and authenticity for me.

I’ll also let go of what that relationship looks like or is supposed to be. Some will be romantic, physical, sexual, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. Some will feel more like kindred spirits, collaborators, friends, soul mates, lovers, companions, teachers, mentors, etc. There are so many different permutations of what a “relationship” is, why bother trying to mentally figure it out beforehand? The mind cannot solve the longing of the heart.  When I let go of control and expectations, I’m usually wowed by what shows up.

20 Tips for More Conscious Relationships

While Neil learned a lot on his quest, it helped me learn too. It reinforced some of my own feelings on self-development, love, and relationships. I’ve put together a list of lessons, tips, and advice for a more “conscious” relationship with a focus on happiness, love, and growth. Truth, love, and freedom applies.

  1. You won’t find happiness outside yourself. And you’ll eventually discover this truth after giving everything you’ve got to finding it outside only to feel empty and at a loss. Then the epiphany happens.
  2. It’s all about awareness, awareness, awareness! Shining the light on our shadows. Not being afraid to see ourselves for who we really are.
  3. You’re not “broken” or “bad.”  In therapy, they love to tell you that you’re broken or bad and you need their help, their books, their drugs, or their therapy to get better. Maybe for a little while, but in the end you realize that you don’t need it and all it takes is consciousness (awareness) and love. You have all the tools you need already.
  4. Acceptance of what is.  Neil found peace by accepting whatever happens as long as he was true to himself.
  5. It’s not about being mono or poly, but being aware, conscious, honest, and authentic. The relationship style takes care of itself. There is no “right” relationship style. Feel free to try them on for size to see what feels good to you. Ultimately, your own issues will follow you into whatever you get into.
  6. Be a “scientist” of your own emotions and behavior. Become “aware” when you’re triggered and go within. Find out how to get your needs met yourself, or how to ask for help.
  7. Stop trying to control the other person. Let go of control altogether. Let it be!
  8. You can’t make another person happy. Another person can’t make you happy. Let go of trying to give everyone else that responsibility to make you happy and stop taking on that responsibility for others.
  9. Treat your partner like the powerful, sovereign being they are. They can handle their own emotions, triggers, and reactions. Assume they are strong, but catch them if they fall.
  10. You aren’t responsible for how the other person feels or reacts to you. Let them have their reaction instead of lying or trying to diminish yourself to get the reaction you want.
  11. Stop blaming other people for your problems. Blaming others gives your power away and sets up a victim mentality. You may be challenged or hurt, but don’t identify with being a victim.
  12. You don’t need to “fix” anyone else. When people try to “fix” you, does it feel good? No. So don’t go into a relationship thinking you can change the person into what you want.
  13. Be present for each other. When you’re partner is upset, ask if they want you to listen, give advice, give them space, or give them loving touch. Men especially want to fix or find a solution, but lots of times listening and being present is all that’s needed.
  14. Attraction to other people doesn’t stop even if you’re monogamous. Get comfortable with knowing your partner is a healthy adult and is choosing YOU rather than being obligated to be with you.
  15. Being your OWN parent so you don’t unconsciously make your partner into your Mom or Dad. Build a great relationship with your Inner Child (yes it’s a thing). Give yourself the love and attention that you always wanted. Learn how to say no, stand up for yourself, and become independent of your parents.
  16. It’s not about perfecting yourself to attract the perfect partner but loving your self as you are so you can love another as they are. The more you accept and love yourself, the more you accept and love others.
  17. You recycle the same childhood “traumas” over and over until you become conscious and integrate its lesson and grow from it. Simply by being aware of your patterns you can evolve into deeper, more loving relationships.
  18. Sex itself is not love. It’s not the “prize” either and won’t satisfy that inner longing. Sex that energizes you and expands your being is good. Sex that depletes you or shrinks your being is like junk food.
  19. Freedom is not found in having a variety of partners but in feeling free to be your truest self in the world. To be free to be who you really are on the inside without judgment.
  20. Everyone is a mirror. Relationships reflect back and shine light on our wounds and lost parts of ourselves. Pay attention! Your negative emotions are helpful signals on your path to become a whole person.

I hope this post and Neil’s book spark some good discussion on relationships and love. Thank you Neil for letting us into your life in such a candid way. For that I am grateful.

For more on The Truth: Listen to the podcast I recorded with April Hanna discussing the finer points of this book as well as a female perspective.

2015-09-01 15.01.57

Road Trip Update: Not Afraid of Love

By | articles, love and relationships | One Comment

I’m three weeks into my cross-country trip called the #starseedtour. It’s been a wild ride filled with beauty, romance, love, risk, uncertainty, hope, disappointment, and courage.

If there’s one major lesson I have learned on this trip is that I fully understand the pain of separation and the desire to connect. In every city I visit, there is one dominant thought that never escapes me: I want to connect deeply with someone.

I’m an introvert at heart, but something about being on the road and out of my comfort zone has me acting in a much more extroverted manner. Meeting new people makes me feel alive and bright!

While my beloved ex-wife and I have been emotionally divorced for over a year, it’s only been about a month since I officially moved out and made the physical separation. To be real with you, I didn’t realize how starved for deep, emotional connection I have been until I hit the road and started meeting people.

While I’ve been practicing a lot of self-love and healing the past couple years, there’s something about sharing feelings with a fellow human that feeds my soul. It’s like taking a drink of water after being thirsty for so long and not even knowing it.

I’ve discovered I have an intense desire for romance, beauty, freedom, honesty, authenticity, and spiritual connection. There are a few people on my trip who I have had the opportunity to share myself with. Confronting my own vulnerabilities, fears, insecurities, and jealousies. I’ve experienced amazing highs of being connected so beautifully with a person only to have to part ways and sink into despair and heartbreak.

me and dan's daughter emily
There was one girl I felt particularly fond of in Los Angeles that completely stole my heart. I haven’t felt that connected to someone in a long time. Because I’m so connected to my feelings, falling in love is easy for me. And while intellectually we both knew we couldn’t have a typical relationship, I was willing to let go and let love do it’s thing. To trust that my heart will never steer me wrong. It blissfully collided us together and then tore us apart in just a matter of a few days. It was intense.

I cried Saturday night while sitting alone on an empty Venice Beach as the Pacific ocean crashed against the shore under the stars. And Sunday morning I cried even more tears as I listened to Bright Eyes while giving myself credit for the courage to face and own my feelings. It felt so good to actually cry (it’s been a while) and to feel the pain of separation fully. It helps me understand that I can stand strong in the feeling of grief and I’m not afraid to feel it. It’s all beautiful to me.

On the first night of my trip, I received a patch from These Are Things that said, “Not Afraid of Love” and I wore it on the sleeve of my jean jacket. This patch has been the catalyst for many deep conversations with total strangers and quietly become my motto on this trip. Not afraid of love!

Elz, one of the wisest women I know, describes my despair not as insecurity or attachment, but rather the fundamental pain of separation that all humans go through in the realm of duality here on Earth. This intense pain of separation fuels the desire to connect with others to feel the joy of who we are – the essence of LOVE. Beautiful. I will add that it’s a bit of a dance between fusion and separation. Coming together and pulling apart. Breathing in, breathing out.

So far, I’ve driven over 4,700 miles the past three weeks and have been to Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, Omaha, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Seattle, Mt. Shasta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orange County. I’ve slept on couches, guest beds, airbnbs, cheap motels, and a couple tents – in the forest and on a beach. I’ve taken risks and exposed myself to new things including driving 4 fun-loving hippie/hobos five hours from Mt. Shasta to San Francisco in the middle of the night. What a rush!

My new friends from Mt. Shasta

I have 4 more weeks left on my trip and plan to pass through Sedona and Roswell on my way to Circles Conference in Grapevine, Texas. Then I’ll be headed further East toward Virginia to attend the Out of Body Exploration Intensive workshop at the Monroe Institute. I don’t really have plans to visit people in the cities that connect those destinations, so this second half of my trip might be more isolated. Which I’m ok with, but I might end up being a bit more spontaneous in my desire to connect.

All I know is that I’m already satisfied, already in love with life and am open to what the universe has to offer me. A bigger part of myself already knows what I need to experience joy, love, and inspiration. I look forward to seeing what that might be.

I’ll close with a paraphrased discussion I had with a Starseed I met in Indianapolis:

Be in a state of wonder. Be wonderFULL. Ask yourself, “I wonder what it would be like to…” And then watch as the universe answers your question by bringing you experiences you never thought possible. Be in gratitude for everything. Everyone you meet is a kindred spirit and everything is happening FOR you.

Jeff Finley Road Trip

I’m Going on a Solo Cross-Country Road Trip of Inspiration and Discovery

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Last week I moved back in with my parents after my wife and I officially separated. Yesterday I hit the road to embark on my solo road trip across the country! I’m calling it the #starseedtour of inspiration and discovery.

I have not traveled solo like this before. And with all the stuff that’s happened in my life the past two years, I really need this. Having moved on from Go Media, WMC Fest, and now my marriage, I have practically nothing holding me back to my old life. The only thing left is my new life.

I begin my trip driving from my parents home in Salem, OH to Columbus, OH to visit some friends for a couple nights. Then I’m off to drive west! I brought a tent and some sleeping bags and plan on camping a little bit too.

I’ll be in cities out west like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sedona, and Roswell. Then I will stop in Texas for Circles Conference on my way to the Monroe Institute in Virginia for the Out of Body Intensive Workshop. I’ll be gone for almost two months.

The inspiration on my trip is grounded in my authentic desire to seek truth, beauty, love, adventure, and freedom. I have a few special people I plan to meet on my trip anchoring me in time/space for those days. But other than that, I’m just going to go with the flow and see where my curiosity leads me.

Follow along with my trip on Instagram at #StarseedTour

Jeff making music

I gave myself permission to make music for 100 days

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I’ve been busy the past 3 weeks doing something I never usually make time for. And that’s making music! I’m participating in #The100DayProject that I discovered through Jen and Omar of These Are Things. You may remember them from my last podcast episode.

I chose music. You can follow my process on Instagram or visit MakerMistaker.com/100days to see what I’ve done so far.

[instagram-feed hashtag=100daysofmakingmusic]

I’m 23 days into it as of this post. So far 3 full songs have resulted and I’m really proud of them!

The whole point of The 100 Day Project is to give yourself permission to create without any excuses. I chose music because it’s what I secretly hoped I could do if the universe would just let me. I had several other ideas that I felt might help me earn more business like designing 100 book covers, or creating 100 album covers. Then I’d have a nice portfolio to attract new freelance clients. Smart, right?

But when I thought about doing it for 100 days, I just didn’t feel that inspired. What would I create for 100 days? I kept coming back to music, but a voice always chimed in with an excuse to not do it.

Here are reasons why I almost didn’t do it:

  • Nobody cares about my music, I don’t get many “likes” when I do it
  • There is no “demand” for me to make music, it feels self-serving
  • It will take time away from what I need to do to earn money to survive
  • I might lose followers because that’s not why people follow me
  • I’ll embarrass myself because I’m not as good as other musicians I know

Even More Excuses and Fears

You see, I LOVE making music – playing drums, writing songs, music theory, playing with my band, learning piano and guitar, etc. But it’s always been something I did “on the side” because I never felt I was skilled enough to earn a living or be a professional musician. I’ve played in 3 bands, but none “made it” – nor did I even care about making it. It seemed the deck was stacked against me making a career out of being a musician. (I realize that viewing everything through the lens of “career” can be really discouraging). There are so many local bands and talented musicians. Most are broke and working 9-5 day jobs anyway. You can’t make money as a musician, unless you’ve been playing since you were 5, so why try?

But then I just said fuck it.

If I was “allowed” to make music for 100 days, I would LOVE It. I would be thrilled! I’d jump for joy if somehow I was able to play music without survival anxiety. Without the dread of knowing that this play time must eventually come to an end.

I gave myself permission. It wasn’t even that hard. I just had to decide!

It was now or never, right?

It’s been 23 days and I really look forward to it every day. Sure, some days I feel obligated to post something when perhaps I really sucked that day or had no good ideas. But that’s the beauty of the 100 day project. Each day isn’t meant to be a masterpiece. It’s about enjoying the process. I’ve had to confront the fear of posting something online that’s not perfect or only half done. Or showing myself embarrassingly learning guitar. I’d play for 15 minutes and feel like nothing is worth sharing because it’s not impressive enough.

But I am so sick and tired of being impressive. Aren’t you? That’s not what I want my life to be based on. I want to live my life because it’s fun and brings me joy. I’m posting music every day regardless of what people think. I may have lost followers, but all that is ego anyway. It’s pointless! It’s about finally deciding to do what we love. Not what we expect our followers to want from us.

If you want to follow me on my journey, feel free. But know that I don’t mind if you don’t! I do hope to inspire you to do your own 100 day project.

What are you going to do for 100 days?

Work with Jeff Finley

How to Get Inspired When You Aren’t Sure What to Do

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I get asked a lot how to stay inspired. Sure, I write a lot about burnout and discontent, but how do we stay inspired through it all?

Let me start by talking about where I find my own inspiration. The first obvious answer is by watching my fellow creators create. Places like Dribbble, Pinterest, and Instagram are great spots to stay up on trends and see the best design and illustration work around.

But if I’m being honest, sometimes those places can be discouraging because the work is so good. I’ve been a designer for over ten years now, and I still feel like I’m just “not quite good enough” yet – simply because I’m constantly made aware of the best of the best. I can drool over the work of Dan Christofferson, Sam Kaufman, John Dyer Baizley, or David Tevenal, just to name a few. I’ll sit down to create and feel like I totally suck because I just wish I could make something as good as them.

Blah, blah, I know right?

So besides admiring the work of others, where else do I get my inspiration?

Let me think about this…

What IS inspiration anyway?

Inspiration, to me, is divine creative energy. It comes in surges and waves. It’s a lightning bolt of creativity channeled into my consciousness from spirit. It says, “wow, I must create!” Or a surge of resonance with something in your reality. Something about what you are observing “resonates” with you – which to me means you are vibrating at harmonic frequency. Like a beautiful harmony played on a piano. It feels really good.

Maybe it was an article you read that unleashed an epiphany or aha! moment. Maybe it was the pink and orange hue of the stormy sunset that suddenly pulled you out of autopilot as you drive down the freeway. A recognition of beauty. Sometimes it can be so captivating that it makes us cry. How emo, right? But seriously, this is a fantastic gift.

It’s a moment where we temporarily access the divine relationship between all things. It’s always there, waiting for us to notice it. But too often we are plugged into our technology and routine. Too busy to notice.

I get inspiration from nature. Big time. I don’t even have to do anything, I just have to go out into nature and just be with it. Turn off my mind and open my heart and take in the beauty around me. The forest and the beach, it’s always there for me! I can connect to it any time I want to. The great thing about it is that when you choose to engage with it like this, it shows it’s appreciation by loving you back. That is inspiration to me.

Forest Sunrise

A simple hike in the woods is sometimes enough to get me out of a “what should I do?” mental block.

Divine Inspiration

Sometimes inspiration takes the form of an intense feeling of MUST. Contrast this with the intense feeling of SHOULD. Those are two different types of motivations. The motivations for MUST are driven by your core self, your spirit, your heart. The motivations for SHOULD are driven by external results like fame, fortune, and ego. Side note, I just finished reading Elle Luna’s book The Crossroads of Should and Must and I highly recommend it!

I watched a TED talk by Jan Jandai titled “Life is easy, why do we make it so hard?” – and it hit me hard. I felt this feeling of relief and inspiration. It’s was such an obvious recognition of the truth. I immediately felt an intense MUST to travel to Thailand and participate in his Pun Pun Center for Self Reliance to learn how to grow some of my own food and even make my own shelter. I didn’t even realize this was a desire for me, but it became one that day.

As difficult as it is to explain, it feels a lot like divine motivation. It’s a deep desire from within, that holds a feeling of relief and peace along with it. It feels like “home” so to speak.

That is the type of inspiration worth acting upon. The other type of inspiration, the one motivated more by ego than spirit, doesn’t seem to be as promising.

Ego Inspiration

I’ll get inspired to act when I read a blog post like “10 ways to double your traffic” or “How to write copy that converts.” These delicious and intoxicating articles provoke me to act but in the end I usually end up feeling a little less authentic. Like somehow I had to sacrifice a part of myself to manipulate the game to my advantage. I can’t deny that this motivation was real. But it might have just been appealing to my desire to be important, wanted, and popular.

Another example of this type of inspiration is when you repeatedly try to copy the popular styles in your creative projects. It might “work” in the sense that you get more likes, shares, and heck, even more clients. But in the end you feel shallow and like you’re not being yourself.

This type of inspiration feeds off our desires to fit in and be part of the crowd. I’ve done this because I’m out of touch with my own internal motivations. I do this when I doubt myself and can’t trust my skills. I have definitely done my share of copying trends and taking shortcuts to get “results.”

How to get the GOOD kind of inspiration?

Where do we find the real inspiration? This requires a little discernment. You’ll need to be able to tell the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Spirit or ego. It’s not like one is right or wrong, but spirit inspiration feels expanding and joyful. It instills a desire to learn or grow. The other feels urgent and competitive. Either way you are acting and you are creating. It’s up to you to decide how to utilize both forms of energy.

But if you want to live more in alignment with your true self, listen to your intuition and “follow your must.” Make time to connect to your inner self. You will access the divine feminine energy of creation and life itself. Then channel the divine masculine energy to act on it and smash through any resistance that holds you back.

Here are some ways to access true inspiration.

  • Embrace solitude and silence. Make time to be alone.
  • Listen to that intuition. That gut instinct.
  • Get away from technology. Turn off your smart phone.
  • Go outside. Get in touch with nature.
  • Meditate. Loosen the grip that the MIND has over you.
  • Doodle, scribble, sketch, or make messes.
  • Dance, exercise, move your body.
  • Keep a journal. Be in touch with your feelings.
  • Make it a habit. Regularly get in touch with this part of you.

Notice How You Feel

When you look at other people’s work – and that includes music and movies and other media, pay attention to how it makes you feel inside. When I listen to some of my favorite bands, it reminds me how much I love to make music. It might stir up the desire to create a new song. Sure, I will be influenced by the styles I like, but I can work with it. There is SOMETHING about the specific styles I like (punk, trap, folk, etc) that resonate with me. What is it? When you engage with media you enjoy, it will activate certain parts of you. Pay attention.

When you get inspired to create for the sheer joy of creating, do it! We all get ideas in our head that we are curious what would be like manifested in physical form. I get a drum beat or melody in my head, sometimes I just need to push it out to feel satisfied. Or I’ll get a feeling that I’d like to express in my art and it NEEDS to come out. There, it’s created! Next!

Challenges

When you attempt to act on your inspiration, you will likely encounter blocks. Fear, self-doubt, etc. Notice how you might prevent yourself from acting on that inspiration because it might not “pay” well. Or it might make you look weird or be too different from the styles you normally do. Or you might be scared to try something new because you aren’t good at it. Or you are drooling over the work of others and feel insecure or incapable. Don’t let that freeze you up! Just get in there and create. The path of the heart is filled with well intentioned challenges!

It’s best to act on inspiration right away if you can. Because it is fleeting. But you can make inspiration a regular thing by practicing some of the tips I listed above. This will open up your connection to your own divine creative spirit more regularly. Then your creations feel more authentically you instead of just copies of what other people make.

I feel compelled to end this article by reminding you that you are already perfect as you are. Don’t take my advice because you feel like you’re doing it wrong. You are an inspiration already, you just have to take notice!

Lion Tamer

Why Do I Sometimes Dread Opening My Email?

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It occurred to me today that when I opened my inbox, I had a subtle bodily reaction of fear. A mild fight or flight response. I think I was bracing for something bad, but why?

Some part of me dreads opening my inbox because there might be something bad lurking among my unread messages. In my mindful state of awareness, I asked:

What was I so afraid of?

Well, I could think of a few things.

  • Rude or bitter comments on one of my blog posts where I shared way too much about my life
  • Someone who was offended by what I wrote or made
  • Cranky customer support, refund requests, etc
  • An unhappy customer or client who still isn’t pleased with the work I’ve done
  • Requests of my time/work that I just don’t have time or interest in
  • Someone who disapproves of me, my style, my approach, or my ethics
  • An email that I’m the worst person of all time and I am to blame for everything wrong in this world

It seems like they all carry a certain undertone of disapproval. I’ll get to that later.

Why was I triggered?

Truth is, I have received some nasty emails in my day. I remember the moment I got that letter from my favorite band in 2007 telling me I was “everything that was wrong with the music industry” after finding some offensive work in my company’s portfolio. Talk about a heartbreaking moment – I nearly had an existential crisis after that and wanted to quit everything.

The reality of my inbox is far less threatening. Most of the emails I receive are actually quite pleasant. I don’t get much spam these days thanks to good spam filters. I do sign up for my share of newsletters that I’m interested in, although I don’t have time to read all of them. But for the most part they are nice emails.

I don’t get a ton of comments on the articles I write, but the comments I do receive are almost always positive. And not just “good job dude” positive. But thoughtful replies from real people sharing their stories. Or emails from folks who enjoy my work and just want to say thank you. Or honest requests to hire me or pay me for my skills, those are always good! And even those from people telling me that what I wrote changed their life in some way. It doesn’t get better than that, right?

Somehow my brain likes to ignore nice emails and likes focus on the hurtful ones. Does this sound familiar?

In almost 20 years of emailing, there have probably been just a handful of traumatic email exchanges. Comments so critical or offensive that it ruined my day. After reading the first few lines, all the blood would drain from my face and I’d feel sick to my stomach. I’d spend the rest of the day in my bed trying to sleep away the pain. And this isn’t even talking about critical or shameful comments from Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

Those few emails created some form of post traumatic stress disorder. It’s crazy how comments from a few years ago ago still have an affect on me. It’s so deep in my subconscious that I don’t even realize it. It manifests as a subtle dread and instinct to recoil and brace for an oncoming assault when there’s no actual threat to be defending myself against. That’s how insidious it can be.

What does it all mean?

After feeling into this, the reactionary fight or flight response is being triggered by some unresolved shame or insecurity within me. It comes back to my tendency to people please and be nice.

The thing about being nice is that it’s not actually very good for me. I’ve done so many things I didn’t feel like doing because I was being nice and thought that’s what you’re supposed to do. I’d ignore my own desires just to make other people happy. As I do my inner work and healing these days, I realize how out of balance this is. How tragically out of alignment it is with my natural state. I realize there was a healthy amount of self-loathing stewing inside me where I didn’t feel good enough to be who I was. That’s changing.

The Problem with Being Nice

When you have a reputation of being nice and accommodating, you establish relationships based upon it. When you start standing up for yourself and feeling more empowered, those who relied on your compliance will be upset. This naturally creates conflict! As someone who fears conflict this is scary shit. The thing is, being nice and accommodating doesn’t actually make people happy. It makes people dependent on you for their needs. They get addicted to your compliance and when you aren’t available, they blame you for their discomfort. The classic codependent relationship.

I guess where I’m going with all this is that email had begun to feel more like customer support and people pleasing than genuine connection. As someone who historically worked hard to be liked, followed, and admired – emails with a negative tone were terrifying. Just a few years ago I would have written long emails back to try to win over anyone who disagreed with me. I’d relinquish my position to please the critic so I could retain my following and not “lose” my position in the rat race. It was all based on fear and low self worth.

Sheesh, how tiring.

The first step is to get off the hamster wheel. There is no race to begin with. It’s all an illusion anyway. If I can self-source my worth, I won’t be so affected by other people’s opinions. Email won’t trigger me anymore. But for now, being aware of how it does is the first step to overcoming this block on the path to being more authentically me.

Tips for Anyone with Email Dread

  1. The next step after awareness is to feel the pain fully. To not run to your vices and addictions to numb. To witness the fight or flight energy coursing through your veins and stand strong within it. Notice that it’s just a trigger. The more discomfort you feel, the more power you can reclaim here. This is a perfect opportunity to fiercely love and care for yourself. Listen to what the pain is trying to teach you. Your inner child is scared of not being approved of or loved. This is your chance to care for yourself like nobody ever has. Behind every fear there is freedom.
  2. Examine what thoughts and beliefs are causing you this pain? Now is your turn to flip the script and come up with new beliefs that empower you. It’s OK to be just as you are, without having to work hard to fit in or be liked. Realize this isn’t a problem to be fixed. It’s simply a window to open up to your truth and practice self-love and compassion.
  3. It’s your responsibility to use email in a way that makes you feel good. One way is to simply be proactive in sending genuine emails to other people. When I do this, I’ll get replies and and email feels fun again.
  4. Unsubscribe from mail that brings you down. If you get a lot of junk and it’s a pain to sort through, do something about it!
  5. It’s OK to ignore an email or not reply. You don’t HAVE to write everyone back. Not every request for your time is something you need to take on.
  6. Look at your discomfort as a reminder to STOP, be present, and practice self love. Are you outsourcing your worth?

What about you? What kind of reactions do you have with your email?