Tag Archives: United States

Time tells the story of our true lives

I wish I had the time. If there is a bigger lie in modern American culture, I’m not sure I’ve heard it. “I wish I had the time,” is the psychotropic drug of our beleaguered conscience, the purple pill to make reality diminish in a blissful fog of indifference. I wish I had the time…. ahhh….. and all that guilt goes away, for… a time.

If I’ve learned one thing these many years bumbling and stumbling through life its that virtually everyone makes time for what is truly important to them. Just as a person’s checkbook register tells the story of their priorities, a bank balance on time spent shows what we are really all about.

Sometimes we actually stop and think about it. We consider all we said no to, and all we said yes to, and where all that time went, and it scares the living shit out of us. That’s when the need for delusion steps in and we medicate with that lovely, “I wish I had the time…”

Nobody hears this more than God. In the cacophony of noise, needy prayers, God must hear excuses about time more than anything else, a creative list of of reasons why the one thing She wants the most — time with us; that’s what we were created for, after all — is the last thing we bring to the relationship. I’m a fairly typical Christian liberal. I can make myself very, very busy FOR God, while having virtually no time WITH God. I’m so busy trying to make God happy I don’t pay much attention to whether He really is happy. So the excuses flow: “I wish I had the time…”

Case in point: Coffee. Not a day goes by I don’t make time for my coffee. Most days I have it the very first thing every morning, having taken the time the night before to set up the coffee maker. I wake up, walk to the bathroom and on my way push a button.  A little while later, I have my coffee.

For more than a year, with equal regularity I made time for God without fail. I grabbed my coffee and my spiritual books and gave a few minutes every single day no matter what to God. I read, I prayed, I sat quietly and tried to listen. I just gave God the time we both needed.

Now that meeting place gets lost in the shuffle more than I like to admit, even though there really isn’t a reason. I walk by the yoga mat, and ignore the books instead of laying out the mat, grabbing the books and sitting by the fire like I did first thing this morning, my first few moments of wakefulness on this blessed new year.

This morning anyway I didn’t have to say, “I wish I had the time.”

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The time for what? To simply sit. To clear the clutter of my life away and sit with God. Everything else comes after that. To be with God is what I’m created to be.

I can try to change the world but God has even that taken care of, telling us to simply pray it into being: “On Earth as it is in heaven.” The change I want in the world is already reality on the other side and God assures us She will blend this side and that together in seamless harmony.

In the meantime, if we take the time, we can see it for ourselves by simply being with God. God taught us this; He explained how He felt and showed us how we function best. Have you ever fallen wildly in love? Your thoughts swirl around that person in blissful orbit. You talk for hours about nothing. Every moment is precious. Suddenly that busy life that had no room for love is now defined by that love. Time expands. We make time for what we want to do, and loving someone is the best thing ever, so we want to fill our days and nights with their presence.

So imagine the broken heart when God hears again and again, “I’m sorry, I wish I had the time.”

Time spent. That’s sort of what God had in mind, because She was lonely. She wanted to be with us. She loves us that much. I’ve read often of late how a 15-minute-a-day practice of meditation produces vast improvements on our physical health, and I think, “No shit.” Being in our Creators presence every day is bound to make us healthier and happier than if we go it alone.

Doing what spiritual sages have prescribed for millennia simple recognizes our humanity and what it means to be fully human.

We live an almost inhumane existence with incessant chimes and bleeps and blips demanding our attention and over-indulged schedules that imprison us and cost us the freedom of our own time. We wouldn’t dream of stopping the Habitrail we scamper on in endless panic to simply sit and be and experience God, never mind the reports that act as if this ancient knowledge is “news.”

Last night we stopped and paused to count time. We paid attention to clock ticks. We became aware of this limited resource incessantly passing through the narrow end of the hourglass, that is if we stayed sober long enough to consider it. Isn’t it ironic that one holiday dedicated to an absolute focus on the present moment has become synonymous with blinding drunkenness?

Today we may be full of resolve to use those grains of sands better this year. To “make time” as if we possess that Divine ability. Stay off the medication of excuses just long enough to grasp this simple reality. Your priorities are evident to all, especially God, by how you spend the time She has given you.

May this year those expenses be conscious, purposeful and mindful, and may you use your time on those that really matter.

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Coal in my stocking: Back to the caramel drawing board

I believe I said this would happen.

Back during the hotly contested caramel week, things got a little dicey when my brother swooped in for the prize. My daughters were not pleased, especially when they compared notes and realized I sent them the same email once they heard the news the caramel wasn’t coming their way. I wrote:

“Too bad too, because you were way in the lead… you were going to be the winner for sure!”

My daughters are lovely, beautiful, confident, smart women. They also have a nasty streak. I knew there’d be hell to pay. Still, I let me guard down. On Christmas morning as we swapped our gifts, I didn’t see it coming when the oldest sweetly handed me a gift and said it was from “us girls.”

I opened it happily.

It was:

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Yep, you guessed it. Coal. In a Trader Joe’s caramel box.

So I’m making more caramel this week. If I don’t the next package could be a horse’s head.

These girls are Italian afterall.

Merry Christmas indeed. Like I said before, “tough crowd.”

Not to worry. The next morning we took everyone  on a hike in the mountains behind our house. The temperature was barely above freezing, like our beloved San Francisco on a windy night at ATT Park in late May.

“How long do you think this hike is going to be,” my oldest asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Well, I’ve heard 2 miles, 3 miles, 4 miles… I just need to know which is the most accurate.”

“I don’t really know. Maybe two miles, but it could be four. We’re going right up there,” I said happily, pointing to a peak nearly straight up.

I heard the grumbles. They made me happy. Coal huh? I got your coal right here!

Like I said, tough crowd.

But it’s the hard that makes it great right? And the hike was great!

The Eagles: Artistry endures long after the lifestyle fades

At the end of a three-hour documentary about one of America’s most enduring rock bands, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, who knows a thing or two about enduring by the way, says the Eagles don’t care about legacy. They remain in the moment, still creating the best art they can.

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It’s a well-crafted moment,  a book end to the legacy of the Eagles. The song “Take it to the Limit” plays, a song they wrote to say they had an artistic obligation to keep stretching, to never arrive, but to find a new limit, over and over.

No wonder they are still so EFFin good.

The documentary enraptured me with equal parts fascination with greatness, a touch of voyeurism to see the gossip behind the greatness, and the perspective gained through hindsight.

The first part of the documentary is the runaway train. As they reach the heights of greatness and all that comes with it, you know the inevitable destruction that led to their split is coming. It taints everything, like a sepia tone on a color photo. Still you laugh at quotes like these:

“There were always girls,” — Glenn Frey

“Sex and drugs. I am not at a loss for words on either subject,” Frey said in the mid 1970s.

Henley, looking back from a perch of thirty years of hindsight says,

” The creative impulse comes from the dark side of the personality. So we worked it hard.”

The dark creativity reached its peak with Hotel California, a truly inspired work of artistic greatness. That song more than any other of its era will transcend time. The hype turned it into a “Paul is Dead” conspiracy. Overwrought Evangelicals said the band was satanic — you remember that? When every good band worshipped Satan… geez oh please — and folks dug and dug for hidden meaning. But the lyrics and the dueling guitar tracks rose above the din to musical greatness, capturing the southern California of my youth.

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“It’s a song about a journey from innocence to experience. That’s it.” — Don Henley on Hotel California.

The insanity followed, including the album “The Long Run,” which took years to make and splintered the band. Joe Walsh’s antics and addictions couldn’t lighten the mood, but they made for good press. One particular night Walsh and John Belushi took over Chicago.  The final tally: ruined seat cushions in the most elegant restaurant in town, a whole lot coke and $28,000 in damages to a hotel room.

The split came in one moment after a decade of music. They just left a concert and went away.

The final hour was “part two,” chronicling the reunion of the band in 1994. Both Frey and Henley proved their chops with plenty of solo success. The band members married, had kids, dried out — except Walsh. He kept partying. Of booze and cocaine and the high-life, Walsh said,

“In the early years it worked. Then you chase it. I ended up in bad shape. I had hit bottom.”

Only Frey ordering Walsh to get clean prior to the band’s reunion gave him the inner drive to get into rehab and see it through. He got out of rehab, and the Eagles were back.

What was amazing is Walsh had to go back out on stage, this time, for the first time, sober. The Eagles, the band itself, was enough to keep Walsh clean.

“Joe was pretty dark that first year,” Frey said. “But then he came out of it. He played better than he ever had before.”

The band had families. They had perspective. It all came back together and worked. It still works today. Some of these new songs are just as good. The lyrics are poetic commentary. Walsh’s song about getting clean is elegant truth telling, “to my best friend Vodka…”

So forty years later, the Eagles are still going. Still living the dream.

Henley said, “It’s a fine line between the American Dream and the American nightmare.”

In some ways the Eagles lived both. But their artistry endures.

Who rivals the Eagles as the best American rock band? Reply below.

Do one thing at a time and do it very well

This reference dates me, but who can forget Charles Emerson Winchester III and his pious preaching of excellence?

“I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, then I move on,” he blustered.

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The show, of course, ruins his belief as he realizes a M*A*S*H unit is not like a Boston hospital. Hawkeye, the mad multi-tasker with magician hands saves the day and knocks the elitist Winchester III down a peg or two.

I loved it. We all did. We loved Hawkeye.

Too bad he was wrong. Winchester was right. And it’s not even close if we really think about it. Ask yourself: do I want a surgeon with focus, or one trying to be a comedian, a flirt, recover from a hangover and take care of two other patients while he works on me?

I’ll take Winchester III thank you very much. But emotionally we all want Hawkeye to be our guy. That’s where we’ve got it all wrong.

Multi-tasking robs focus. Without focus, life is blurry and off-balance. The experts — true American Type A overachievers, to be sure — got it all wrong. Multi-tasking blows. Focus, the discipline to concentrate on the task at hand, is a far more effective way to conduct ones business, though its far less sexy.

Our society loves multi-taskers, fast talkers, go-to-gals who eat stress for breakfast and then flick it away in spin class, without ever putting down the devices, plural.

But it seems the bets people made to this driven way of life are turning up losers. Emotionally bankrupt souls are exhausted and stressed and addicted and desperate. Yes, there is a better way.

More and more I read of people who are interested in mindfulness over multitasking. See some examples below. Even the Type A experts are coming to appreciate a state of zen. Time management expert Mark Forester writes,

“One of the most important time management principles, to which I have often referred in the past, is ‘one thing at a time’.”

In my own life, I increasingly have to tell myself to stop… focus… and return to the task at hand.  When I do, I do better. I am more efficient, not less.

We are not just what we accomplish. For a genuine hoof to head approach, how we accomplish the things we do matters as well. The journey and all that…

Tis’ the season … for multi-tasking. Christmas breeds frenetic anxiety. Lists grow like crabgrass with shoots creeping into every minute of our day.

Just a precious few days remain until Christmas. Stop the insanity now. Focus. Do one thing a time, do it very well, then move on. You’ll be amazed how you get more done and feel far better. You might just have some time to relax, do something like take a hike and even listen to Christmas carols. Tis’ the season… why miss it?

Another new WeBromance- Yogaglo

My yoga teacher told me about a pretty kick-ass (to use a decidedly non-yogi term) web site that offers a vast array of yoga classes online. It quickly became one of my new favorite weBromances.

I love yoga. But I’m not a huge fan of yoga classes. But I’m also not the best at leading myself through a period of yoga practice without the encouragement and guidance of a yoga instructor. All of this far too often gives me built-in bullskat excuses to avoid yoga.

Then I wonder why I’m all bunched up and losing my patience. I never said I was the smartest guy in the world.

So here’s where yogaglo.com steps in. For $18 a month — the cost of a couple of classes — I can do all the classes I want with exceptional teachers. It’s a stunning smorgasbord of delights all available to me with a click of a button.

Apparently this company has endured some very non-peaceful criticism of late (I included a link below if it interests you… I doesn’t me to be honest). I don’t know much about that and maybe touting them here will put me in a storm I don’t want to be in. I just really like the classes this site provides me and that’s plenty enough for me.

I just do go in for yoga politics.

I also discovered a teacher very similar to the classes I’ve taken, offering a style of yoga I’m comfortable with. Her name is Jo and she’s a pretty kick-ass teacher as well.

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Have you ever noticed how beautiful female yoga practioners are? Of course you have. But have noticed how not-so beautiful the men are? What’s up with that? Perhaps its proof that God is indeed feminine. But alas, I digress.

Yoga is double-down on my day for me. It provides the spiritual quiet, calming, grounding and focus on the present that does more for my outlook than most other spiritual disciplines. It also kicks my ass most days, so I get my physical exercise in at the same time.

I admit to a bias here, but I’ve watched a lot of those cable TV workout shows and most are incorporating a good deal of yoga movement. The problem is they are sooooo Western. It’s like they rip off the physical side of yoga and trash the entire foundation of how it works — a practice that has been developed and nurtured for about as long as evolution. Then they package it with ripped bodies cheering you on to have your own ripped body too, with a whole lot of western rah rah and some serious “cardio” to get those nasty fat cells exploding.

My bride loves these shows and doesn’t really like yoga. I think she’s all wet. But that’s what makes love what it is right?

Yoga is Eastern. It is ritual and practice and breath and not a bunch of jumping around in pursuit of six-pack abs. It goes beyond the physical to a more holistic approach to well-being, with all the physical benefits packed in.

Try it. Really it’s as simple as that.

Balance essential to Effin Artistry

As any reader of this blog can soon discover, I eat. I love to eat. I plan my eating and enjoy it thoroughly. I also have my compulsions, especially chocolate, hence the pursuit of the most artistic chocolatart creations I can muster with my limited skills. I have my addictions too… caffeine mostly. Even my Effin Art can get out of balance. Tshirts? Really?

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This state of affairs may not seem ideal, but it beats the twenty years of alcoholism that proceeded it. Then I hardly ate. Never ate chocolate or deserts because they interfered with my nightcap (read: nightcaps.. as in plural. very plural) and still was 100 pounds overweight. People most often compared me Tony Soprano, which was sadly apt. Like the wonderful actor who played him, James Gandolfini, I was well on my way to an early grave. I had many compulsions, fueled by recklessness that was a direct response to stress and the increasing problems that rose from such drunken recklessness.

The key is not idealism, but balance. I like living in balance. My life works in balance and it didn’t under the weight of my many pursuits back in the day. Life in pursuit of an ideal lacks fulfillment in the moment, oddly enough especially after the idealized goal is achieved. In fact, there is rarely a moment. Life lived in pursuit is lived in the future, with a million wonderful present moments lost in the swirl of noise and restlessness.

To stay the course I set upon several years ago, I work on balance with the attention of a surgeon. The slightest tremor in “the force” causes me to raise an eye and consider it. When those tremors have been going off for a while and I’ve not responded, I know I’m out of balance.

Today was one of those re-balancing days. I’ve gained a few pounds as holidays have given me a lot of excuses to bake treats. It’s no big concern but I needed to pay it heed. Another tremor: I’ve not had much time lately for my mental practices, like learning Spanish, playing guitar and doing yoga (FYI, the woman pictured here has a nice website about yoga). These things bring me into the present better than most. The discipline of practice is an important tool of sobriety for me. I’ve been studying Spanish for years and actual conversation still largely eludes me, so clearly its not about success. Listen to me play the guitar (which is tough, considering as a rule I don’t play for human beings), and you’ll know the effort is far, far, far from ideal. And, as my yoga teacher likes to say, “we’ll never be on the cover of Yoga Journal.” (Amen to that says those who have seen me do yoga).

I allocate my time according to my priorities. It’s just a fact. I’ve found in my own life when one “doesn’t have time” for something they say they really want to do they either are lying to themselves and others or they are very out of balance. That I haven’t afforded some of these basic things the necessary time to pursue them is a tremor telling me I’m out of balance.

So today, I try to re-calibrate myself. I started a new six-week exercise program to deal with those extra pounds — Lord knows I’m not giving up chocolate — and I’m creating a new structure to fold in some of the above activities into the mix. Nothing radical. Nothing too extreme. Just a humble effort to stay in balance.

I top it off with a prayer, asking the giver of a good gifts to lead me in these humble efforts to be the best me I can be. When I speak of hoof to head, I’m not just talking about food, I’m more often talking about me.

May you be in balance today.