Reflections on WDS Two Weeks Later and 5 Lessons I Learned


The WDS conference was held a couple weeks ago. It was one of the few events I had pre-planned this year over 6 months in advance. If you haven’t heard about it, you can read more about it here: World Domination Summit.

It’s a gathering of passionate individuals with big ideas that want to make an impact on their own lives or the lives of others.

It’s a gathering of change-makers, innovators, do-ers, the ones who don’t see life as simply something that is happening to them, but something we are deliberately creating with our every breath and want to grab hold of it and start truly living.

I had a hard time describing what the event was to people who would ask me. “What do you do at the World Domination Summit?” they would say. Chris humorously pointed out at the beginning of the conference our standard response should be, “well, isn’t it obvious?”. He went on to describe what it was truly all about. It’s about 3 main things:

1. Community

2. Adventure

3. Service

This was the core philosophy and I took it to mean: Community because this was a gathering of people from all parts of the world that are together because of a single idea — we can do better in this world with our lives. Adventure because you can’t truly feel Joy in what you’re wanting to do unless you absolutely love it and everything you do seems like an adventure. Service because you can’t live a fulfilling life if you do not give back to others.

There were five main things I learned from this unique experience.


I kept describing the scene at WDS like a Sea of Inspiration we were all swimming together in. The Sea was our Stories. The stories that define who we really are, not the one that society tends to define us by. No matter how old you were, or what you were doing currently in your life, you were treated as simply another human being with something to share with the world through your own story. If you had a great story, you were going to get quite a bit of your very own 30-seconds of fame over that weekend.

WDS was not really a conference as it was a gathering where you could meet and connect with those who were on a similar path of living a life truly worth living. Some were on the path, others were trying to find theirs… but it didn’t matter. It was a large Sea of Inspiration and you could gain or give value any way you wished.

It’s the stories we created that will live on inside of us past the next few weeks when the buzz of inspiration has begun to settle down from WDS.

There were so many great moments at WDS.

I met so many great people I can now call friends:




I attended impromptu Meditation sessions organized in the mornings by Nathan Agin, on his own world wide adventures here: Nonestop Awesomeness:

Later that afternoon, I joined an Unconventional Fitness – Yoga in the Park session where the theme was of course related to manifesting Joy.

Later that day I attended a session by Jonathan Fields who I had only heard briefly who mentioned “achieving Joy can be a zillion-sum game: I win, you win, and someone I don’t even know wins.” I found out later that night only that Jonathan’s story included opening a Yoga studio in NY over 10 years ago when he was on his own path from leaving his job as a lawyer behind.

That whole day it seemed like the universe was coalescing to give me brief insights into Joy as many times as possible even as I caught the movie that premiered that night: I’m Fine Thanks.



I went to SXSW earlier this year and it seemed to be all about personal/business accomplishments over someone’s individual human story.

When you walked around WDS, any interaction you had would typically start with, “What’s your story?”. “What are you passionate about?”. “What makes you truly happy and joyful in this world?”. “What inspired you to be here?”. “To travel thousands of miles to a conference titled ‘The World Domination Summit’?”

This was quite a shift from SXSW where typical interactions were, “Check us out online! We’re awesome! I’m awesome! Here’s some swag! Woooooo!”

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, because it’s all in good fun, but on a personal level, I think there was more to gain on a human level with the interactions that took place at WDS if you were open to them.

It reminds me greatly of Simon Sinek’s brilliant TED talk on living from your Why: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action“. He explains it in terms of business, but it applies to each of us as humans.



I had been anticipating the opening talk by Brené Brown for some months before the event as I had heard a great deal about her and my Yoga teacher had quoted her quite often in her classes. What I ended up experiencing was eye-opening.

If you haven’t heard of her, do yourself a favor and at the very least watch her TED talk: “The power of vulnerability.“.

She focused her talk on Joy and having the gratitude to cultivate it within your life. It was truly about living what she referred to as a Wholehearted life; a life worth living in other words. She’s done years of research on the topic and through her own personal journey has been sharing her insights.

She began with an eye opening demonstration that explains it plainly. She asked everyone to stand up and start laughing as hard as they could. Make whatever they felt like was their signature over-the-top laughter. Many of us fell over laughing and were very expressive in showing this emotion. Then she said, “okay now act cool”. Most of us stayed still. Standing in some pose that signified “being cool”. It was fascinating. As a society, she pointed out, being cool was actually the opposite of what it meant to be Joyful. She said we needed to be uncool and not afraid to let it all out. You need to embrace being vulnerable enough to act the way you truly feel inside. The willingness to maybe laugh uncontrollably in public for instance.

A quote from her talk speaking on Vulnerability- “the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you’re saying to someone when you’re being uncool”

By the end of her talk, it was fitting she would have everyone get up and dance their hearts out to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing! Because we shouldn’t stop believing in those things which make us feel absolutely pure Joy inside.



I had followed another author and blogger, Pamela Slim, for quite a while as well after reading her ‘Escape from Cubicle Nation‘. She’s done talks at corporate offices including Google to help inspire more collaborative and meaningful work environments as well as just helping people who want to start living more fulfilling lives for themselves.

I walked up to her, nervous about introducing myself because I felt weird knowing her but she having no idea who I was. If it wasn’t for Brene Brown’s fiery opening session on being vulnerable I may not have said anything. I’m so glad I did, because Pamela is one of the most down to earth people I met for being an author and well-known figure in the community. She immediately asked me with a warm smile, ‘So what’s your story?’. I told her briefly my story over the past two years and the Joyful Breath Yoga project I’ve been working on the past 5 months; a project closely aligned with higher passions of mine. She ended up being very inspired by the journey I was on and was grateful I approached her to tell her it. This filled me with Joy, knowing that someone I looked up to could find even a small bit to admire in myself. She thanked me for sharing the story and took a picture of us with my Japanese headband to instagram!:

There’s a big life lesson to learn here. What we admire in others, is truly a reflection within ourselves. We see it in others because it’s something we value in ourselves enough to notice. We wouldn’t notice or recognize this trait or source of inspiration if a part of the desire didn’t exist already in us. Truly value yourself… Because you never know what you have inside which can inspire even those who you admire.


The main take away from WDS though was Action. Among all the inspirational stories, the connections and new friendships, and all the buzz from activity of the weekend, without any action afterwards, any ideas or motivation from the event would simply fade away. I came away with a firm intention of action after that event. I wanted to truly begin living from that place of Joy that Brené Brown spoke about on the first morning of the event. “There is no harder feeling to feel that Joy” she said. That resonated throughout my being, and it likely could be because I’ve been very involved with a project that I feel so passionately about that has the potentially to truly change people’s lives called Joyful Breath Yoga.

The reason I write this is because I could not have imagined I would be able to do this over 2 years ago today. The truth is, it’s never as easy as it seems. It’s easy to see someone like myself able to have the freedom to live and work from anywhere with an internet connection, but beyond the glory of that, you miss the sleepless nights, the uncertainty, the questioning of following the ‘right path’ (whatever that means), and the many hours a week spent non-stop working and weekends that are given up in pursuit of fiercely living a life with purpose.

The WDS conference holds a special place in my heart. It was two years ago I read Chris Guillebeau’s book ‘The Art of Non-Conformity’. I read it at a time when I was seeking what was possible outside the confines of a cubicle life that was slowly sucking my soul away every day. Chris went on an Unconventional Book Tour that year which passed through Cheyenne, WY. I remember there being 6 of us around the table at a small Starbucks there inside a Borders. It was an intimate opportunity for all of us to share our stories with Chris; a change from the larger crowd he drew in Denver on his way over where he had give a short speech in the book store.

I remember telling him briefly my story and feelings on work. I told him my friend Kunjan and I had been running our company Quark Studios on the side of our jobs for many months now and starting to grow some pretty consistent revenue from it but the idea of leaving a very stable and high paying full-time job seemed crazy. Especially when many people would have killed for the job I had, given that the economic crash had just happened a little over a year earlier. But he told me something profound that afternoon that has stuck with me ever since: “many people ask for advice, but it’s not advice you’re looking for. You’re looking for permission. For someone to push you, to light that fire that would get you started and youI already know what to do.” He was right. I did. Less than a month and a half later I put in my two week notice.

I was surprised when I talked with Chris again briefly at the after party that he remembered that afternoon in the little coffee shop in Cheyenne.

Based on Chris’s 3 main points behind the philosophy of WDS, I felt I had covered Community pretty well in 2010, when I became very involved with the Coworking movement that helped me leave my job. I’ve had quite the Adventure growing a company last year at it’s peak to 12 people working together with us and we continue to keep it going this year with around 7.

This year I feel drawn to the third aspect Chris talks about which is Service. He even ended the conference by doing one of the most compassionate things at a conference this size: Investing $100 into each of the 1000 attendees:

So as we all try to find where we fit in or continue on our own journeys, my takeaway has been to remember the three things based on the Core Philosophy of WDS: Stay Inspired through Community. Make your Life an Adventure worth Living. Take Action and don’t forget to be of Service to others.


The Sun Rose This Morning as it did Ten Thousand Years Ago

The sun rising at 5am in Tuticorin, a city in South Tamil Nadu.


The sun rose this morning as it did ten thousand years ago. The only difference is that it is us, together, who get to set the intention and breathe life into experiences on this planet on the shoulders of our ancestors.

I set an intention the Summer of 2010 that I didn’t fit into a corporate lifestyle and I was willing to do anything to get out. Intentions followed by actions allow each and every one of us to manifest lives of our own making and choosing. I did everything to Break out of the 9-5 (read: The Drive to Break out of the 9-5), grew friendships with passionate like-minded individuals (read: Ashok Amaran Remembers his first day Coworking…), and by December of that year left that life behind(read: I Quit).

2011 was the year of rapid growth with our Mobile App and Web Development company Kunjan and I co-founded at Quark Studios. At our peak we had up to 12 people working with us. We don’t like to call anyone who works with us contractors, employees, developers, etc… We call everyone team members because while they are with us and choose to be with us, they are part of our team.

While we grew more freedom in our own lives, working 70-80 hours a week to more reasonable 30-50 hours this year, I set a personal intention earlier this year that I hope to follow through with in this year and years to come.

It was a very personal intention while looking out into the ocean on the shores of Goa, India.

I had just woken up and had a vegetarian breakfast at the Guest Inn I was staying at. The birds were singing, a slight breeze was in the air with a warm heat in mid-January. I attended a morning Hatha Yoga class next door at the studio beside the Inn. The teacher led with an intention she said she was told during a recent teacher training (all the teachers there were students themselves getting trained) which was finding pure stillness to give the mind peace and the body health.

She described a previous evening during one class were many of them were gathered there in front of the Yoga Master expecting to do some advanced postures and were all ready to out-do those standing next to them. Showing off how they were ‘better’ or more ‘far along’ with Yoga because they knew they could do a pose not many others could pretzel themselves into. But what happened was he made everyone stand with their arms stretched out to their sides as if in Goddess pose, and simply hold and Breathe. For 2 hours. Together they all danced with breath in the silence. It was one of the most difficult Yoga classes many of them had ever had and many of them were unable to fully maintain present throughout it. Afterwards he said, ‘There is always room for growth. The one thing that doesn’t ever change is change itself.’

After class, I was on the shore, thinking over what it truly meant to live a happy, fulfilled life. What does it truly mean to be happy? What makes a person love life? What makes them get up every morning and want to live every moment to their fullest?

I got the answer. My answer. It was gratitude. Gratitude for life, for your body, for your health. Not just being healthy, but treating yourself like an actual living temple in this world. Something that even Buddha, Jesus and many others who were ‘Enlightened’ had also said.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” – Jesus
“Every man is the builder of a Temple called his body, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead.” -Henry David Thoreau
“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” -Buddha

They were saying to not look at them though; they were saying to look at yourself. Use them as an example, but look inward at yourself because the ability to find peace, love, happiness, strength, good health, and anything you could possibly want is within all of us and has always been. Even if you are unhealthy this moment, illnesses are only a part of our experience. It’s more our intention and how we apply our actions that make a difference in our lives. Why are there so many inspirational stories of cancer survivors like Lance Armstrong? They decide the moment they know of mortality they want to choose life instead. It doesn’t always work out, and can be a tragedy, but it doesn’t mean it was never true. The answer was to be alive. Be absolutely grateful for the breath of air you are taking at this very moment to even read these words.

My intention was then to live a life full of health and happiness for myself and others. No one is perfect, and I’m no where near where I want to be. But I’ve realized this is the intention I want. And I know just like when I set that intention the Summer of 2010, it will come with the following of actions in this journey we call Life.

I’ve been practicing Yoga regularly for almost 9 months now. And one thing you quickly learn in a regular practice if you’re open to it, is Yoga is more than physical poses and postures. It’s more than toning your core and recovering from injury. It is all of these things and many more actually. But underlining it all is that it’s a practice of life itself. A place and time set aside on a mat to return to that stillness I felt on the coastline of Goa. You flow through poses, connecting deeply with your breath, and when you do this regularly for 90 minute classes, you connect with yourself. At the end of every class no matter which you take, you will end in Shavasana. The most important pose in my opinion. It is also known as Corpse pose. You lie in absolute stillness flat on your mat for 5-10 minutes, or longer if you wish. The idea is to return to that place of reflection, and calm yourself down before rushing back out into the busy world again. Do you realize you do this every night though? Every one of us? We have our own personal Shavasanas each night in our beds for 8 hours… We arise from this state renewed each morning allowing us to set a new intention for the day. That’s what a Yoga class gives you. That sense of renewal when you’re able to escape the busy-ness for only 90 minutes and set that new intention for your day. No matter how big or small. This is what I do now each and every morning before I even allow my feet to touch the ground. When they do, I ground myself in intention because it gives us the focus and clarity to stay on track in our ADD fueled world with distractions all around us. Just this past weekend I was so happy to enjoy this state of renewal as I was working on an upcoming project:

Even as I had traveled these past two weeks through Phoenix, San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Seattle and waking up this morning in Vancouver. One thing never changed: I returned to find my own stillness, my own peace, health and clarity each and every morning. My hope is through this new project I’m working on, we can all hope to find it on our own schedules as well by learning to reconnect with our breath.

Today is my birthday. I turned 25 today. It was funny because in the busy-ness of projects I’ve been working on, I had only remembered a day before. The truth is, the sun rose this morning as it did ten thousand years ago. It will rise again tomorrow. I love that it’s my birthday today. People will recognize it, no doubt post on my Facebook, and attempt to contact me throughout the day, but this day is grateful to me because it contains life. Life is a gift. And we should treat everyday like it’s our birthday because it truly is.

Wake Up Each Morning with a Smile on Your Face


About 6 and a half years ago, I was in what I would probably consider the most depressing state of my life. Not in terms of my situation, but in the way I felt. It seems to be common in our first world country to find negativity in the face of all that is a positive. We get depressed even when we live in abundance of opportunity and prosperity. It’s a point in my life that’s been a constant reminder of how helpless, hopeless, and painful life can feel.

It was December 2005. I had just finished my first semester at college and I felt confused about everything in life. Part of it was living independently for the first time, and part of it was not being ready for the shift in social dynamics from high school to college. Throughout high school and most of my life prior, I was very involved competitively with tennis and I had my circle of friends I used to play tennis with and go to tournaments regularly. I felt a sense of belonging in some way, knowing and interacting with all these friends on the court; it blinded me from how disconnected I was to all of my friends at school and the limited activities I participated in because any free time went to practicing tennis. As soon as high school ended, so did my years of playing competitively, and also the end of seeing most of the people I considered friends through that sport. It left me with a very small circle of friends who I’d always known throughout elementary and middle school.

It wasn’t until I started college did it sink in how much I had lost by not being able to regularly play tennis and have that sense of community around me. It also didn’t help that the over-achiever in me signed up for advanced courses to begin the first semester. When winter break on December of 2005 came around, I was a mess. Confused what direction the next steps of my life were taking, I had struggled in my classes and ended up with the lowest grades of my life (GPA of 0.69), I had severe social anxiety to even ask for help, and didn’t even know who my friends were anymore. I was in a state of utter despair, not having anyone to talk with or the courage to tell anyone including my parents. I let it all sink within myself as I typically do with most things. It felt like an anvil pulling the weight of my whole being down constantly from the inside. The thought of going out and doing anything felt like a major task as if I was tied to an iron ball and it would require lots of effort. I got to the point of not wanting to be awake during the day and began sleeping at 10am and waking up as the sun was setting at 7pm. I filled my days (or nights) by staying at home watching one movie after the other. I didn’t want this winter break to end or I’d have to talk to people again, but I also wondered what was so wrong with me. Why I wasn’t able to have fun like those around me or have anything interesting or meaningful to be a part of. I felt truly broken and incomplete.

I don’t remember how I found it, but I came across a book one night that winter called “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”. It would be dramatic to say reading that book changed everything but it did illuminate this dark tunnel I found myself in just enough. The bhuddist wisdom within the book gave me a deeper interest in a few things and I started just reading more in general, but after that I was motivated to apply to a job I felt I could be really good at and really wanted at KU. I had been eying it for a few weeks and never had the courage to even try for it because, like everything else, I felt I wasn’t going to be accepted. To my surprise, I got contacted in for an interview and within a couple days I was hired as a member of the ResNet staff which was responsible for troubleshooting computers and helping students connect to the Internet in their dorms. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but this is what changed everything. I was now a part of something and the most important piece– I was able to offer help to others with some talents and knowledge I had. I was able to give back and in doing so received a sense of fulfillment. I met so many great people working there for over 3 years and learned and grew in ways that would have never been possible if I hadn’t had that opportunity. I’m also very fortunate KU had a special policy for first semester grades that they could be replaced if taken again only within the first year. I took all those classes again and finished that first year with a GPA above 3.

Things have not always been easy or rosy since that time, but it was such a low point that it served as a constant barometer to me ever since on how bad things could be. I also learned that it’s only within ourselves we can find the courage and strength to get out of such situations. It always starts with us. We sometimes think the world is out to get us, or we keep getting dealt the bad cards in life, but we fail to ask what it is about ourselves that is holding us back from being where we want to be or doing what we want to do. Sometimes it’s a simple act of courage walking momentarily outside your comfort zone to the sea of possibility that lies there. Life doesn’t happen to you; you are creating your life in every moment by the thoughts you’re thinking, the actions you’re making and every breath you take. Any moment it could all be gone; in a tragic upheaval, the slightest of accidents. Some people wait to accept this until their last breath but it doesn’t have to be that way.

A friend of mine recently said it was his experience that practice leads to discipline which leads to abundance, but it begins to erode if you don’t complete that cycle again by practicing. One thing that you can start practicing is being grateful for the start of every day by cracking a smile when you wake up.

The sun still shines today as it did 6 years ago. Just being alive and taking that first breath into waking consciousness is such a blessing. It’s a new day with new possibilities. We can cherish the very fact we are here in this moment, being allowed to experience it with all our senses and personal well being. Treat that waking moment with the greatest joy in this world! We are here! We are present! If we find it difficult to be grateful for anything in our lives, the simple gift of that first breath we take every morning can be a wonderful reminder of how precious it is to be alive right now. Treat that moment with a wide smile that resonates through your being and feel the gratitude of it!

Loving Life between our Goals and Accomplishments

Image from:


I’ve been thinking a lot about goals and achievements lately. As an entrepreneur, one of the many challenges in running a business is keeping yourself grounded enough to see the immense value in everything you do and how you’re making a difference when the goals are much more rigid and ever-changing than when you’re simply working at a job and climbing a very visible ladder.

Goals and achievements are the pinnacle of societies across the world and rooted in our human condition of wanting to succeed. We want to be successful, recognized, and accomplish something meaningful. It’s what keeps us sane and able to continue what we do. We set up structures of achievements throughout our life: graduating high school, acceptance into colleges, getting hired for a new job, being recognized with a promotion, marrying, having children, and allowing this cycle to continue. While these are all amazing moments, they are simply that: moments. They are moments in time coupled with many other million moments in time we experience throughout our lives. We have more moments in our life that we don’t remember than the ones we do because we choose to only remember the high and low points. We live on a moving curve of ups and downs which map the stories of our life like a performance of acts in a play. We all dance together in this beautiful journey we call life.

Life is fragile though. So very fragile. It can bring us to tears when we remember this. Sometimes it’s in moments of our own pain and suffering and other times during a tragic or untimely death. Death shows us in plain sight the existential problem to human existence. While we are amazingly creative and infinitely capable of anything within our imagination, we are limited by these bodies of flesh that make up who we are. We can dream up rockets and planes that extend our literal human capabilities, but we all suffer the same fate at some moment: death. It changes us, forever. When we know of our mortality or when we remember it, we become better people. We put aside the petty drama of our lives and look at our higher purpose. We understand we are not merely here to exist, but to thrive. Our goals and accomplishments are not just milestones, they’re sign posts that show us a direction to take. Life happens in experiences between these posts so the goals and accomplishments are not the most important moments in our lives. It’s as if the cover of a book is our present moment and the back is the goal; the real story is told through the many pages in-between. We only truly ever exist in the present moment. The moment you’re existing in right now, inhaling each breathe of air, is your life. We should never forget that as we continue the path to our goals. The human condition is surreal– we can create any life for ourselves, a river of possibility from our imagination and desires, and yet at the same time we experience every little moment that leads there. That’s the purpose of goals and accomplishments. Giving us a start and end point on which to steer ourselves through the experiences of life. We can choose a life worth living by setting the start and end points that we want to see for ourselves and then experiencing the magic of life in the middle.

We must start with the now and fill ourselves with everything we love; our best self. When you live life from your best self, you are always giving this to others. That is the most valuable gift you could ever give this world.

A friend of mine recently sent me a letter saying they were upset at negativity directed at them from a wall post on Facebook. A blunt insult and a pure form of bullying that caused real pain when it was read. Bullying is actually a sign of insecurity within the bully that is being made up for by bringing someone else down. But this friend is a yoga teacher who recently finished training in India and I felt compelled to reflect back some wisdom that I probably gained from her to begin with. After sending it, I realized how much I needed the reminder as well. Life has a funny way of manifesting exactly what you need at the right moment if you take the time to “stop and smell the roses”:

From the depths of the darkness and fire, we rise more resilient and stronger as a Phoenix from ashes. The negativity, scattered throughout our experiences, is present to highlight the contrast to those aware so we may clearly see the positivity, the bliss. Revealing the north star toward the light, away from our shadow.

Remember in Yoga we return to our mats with a goal, an intention. But it is not the intention that is the purpose of the practice. It’s the direction the present moment takes due to that intention. Therefor, it’s not about ever reaching a goal, but following the path and being present. The paths we never would have considered or taken if we hadn’t returned to the mat, hadn’t given time to contemplation. That journey is the practice.

“What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end” -Nietzsche


Like a plant, we grow to a certain point in our lives when we’re able to start creating seeds and putting them out into the world to let new plants grow and thrive. All past generations give us their creations in order for us to create in their shadow when they no longer can. As if we keep passing the torch of life on to the children of every new generation. Our entire lives are rooted in the lives of millions of others who have come and gone and we are all connected like the branches of a single tree.

So what is at the heart of our goals and accomplishments? I believe it is love.

Not a romantic love, although that is a powerful force which can help us learn about true love. True love is limitless, unconditional love for everything in existence. It is the releasing of all negativity, jealousy, pain, suffering and fear within ourselves that all we have left is pure love.

The force that binds all life together by a silver thread. This thread weaves itself between our present moment and all our goals. When we look for the silver lining in any moment, we are finding this. That blissful experience you find in even the most difficult of times that fills you with an immense joy reminding you that you are still alive and grateful for every breathe you take. That is love.

Love is the binding force between all things in this universe. The unexplainable outpouring of love that overwhelms us when we first see our children born. The feelings between two star crossed lovers as if the world melts between their arms. The compassion and kindness we all feel during a heartwarming story and which we call “pulling on our heart strings”. The emotions that are felt so profoundly that they are so deeply personal like how an Adele song vibrates through us and we hear it in our hearts. When we reach far within ourselves, we begin to hear each-other’s soul, softly between the beats of our heart and the rhythm of every breath. The heart has the second most nerve endings in our body after our brain so we can not only metaphorically, but literally “think” from our hearts. From empathy and understanding as opposed to the ego of mind. This is the pure state of love.

The heart only knows how to love. It pumps the blood throughout our bodies rejuvenating every cell with fresh nutrients and oxygen without any questions. Whether our minds choose to be an angry or kind person to the world, the heart never judges and continues to pump away this life giving energy until it no longer can. There’s universal wisdom in the power of our heart and ability to love.

One of my favorite movies of all time which depicts love in the most authentic way is Before Sunrise. The story is of romantic love between two travelers, but the underlining theme is of literal timeless love by the end when Ethan Hawke looks up at the clocks in Vienna. I absolutely loved a video I found by a filmmaker, Jason Silva, who talks about this. He created short bursts of what he calls “philosophical espresso” and uses the topic of love in one of them. What resonated profoundly when I first saw it was his recollection of the brilliance behind Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise:

What Jason comes to by the end is the beauty of life: “Love is the answer to human existence but it does not solve the problem of human existence”.

Spread love into the world any way you can. Many ripples make vast changes in the ocean of life.

30 Days of Gratitude Challenge

Tax day is upon us and while many of us are feeling upset or resentful, I think it’s important we continue to look at the bigger picture.

I went to a great talk over the weekend by Max Strom. I was intrigued to see him because I had read his book A Life Worth Breathing while traveling around the shores of Goa, India this past January. It was held on the Plaza in KC and entitled “The Healing Power of Forgiveness”. The primary thesis of his talk was the releasing of Anger in our bodies. He believes that by simply not forgiving others or ourselves, we unknowingly harbor anger and resentment inside of us which causes us (and those around us) to feel pain mentally, emotionally, and will later manifest physically.

One solution was to be thankful before anything else. Gratitude is the highest virtue. The virtue where all other virtues come from. In any moment of anger, despair, or state of unhappiness, the virtue of gratitude can change everything.

He recalled a story of a man who seemed grumbly and annoyed at the beginning of a Yoga class. He was just upset and wanting to do some Yoga to help get over it. The theme of the class was Gratitude and the simple reminder of the gratitude he felt towards his 3 year old daughter brought him instantaneously to tears. The emotions from anger to sadness in an instant. It triggers something deep within us. A sort of catharsis from the trials and struggles of the world, a moment of gratitude centers us and brings us back to our meaning and purpose in life. Our accomplishments and greatness. Our goodness and compassion which resides in all of us, no matter how much it is covered by the baggage we carry around from our interactions in the world.

Anger was a primary topic in Max’s talk because he felt without forgiveness, some form of anger is always present. Sometimes we don’t even realize how our anger affects ourselves or those around us. A simple act of anger directed at one person could affects thousands.

He mentioned a story about a Yoga studio he was teaching at with a class of about 50 people and it was one of those peaceful classes you just got a sense of calmness after it was over; everyone was relaxing in the final corpse pose, letting all their worries melt away. Suddenly through the LA traffic outside the window, a man honks his horn, the loud kind, where he leans on it. And he leans on it 3 times and it sounds like someone yelling with a horn. At that moment, he noticed 50 people in the studio get jolted for a moment. 50 nervous systems that were in peace, suddenly in shock with a slight rise in blood pressure. Next to the studio, there were at least 2 other rooms with at least 20-30 people, and along that street, many restaurants where that sudden noise could have been heard. Above these restaurants were residential lofts with potential tenants and more families that may have been temporarily shocked for a moment. One man, stuck in traffic, venting frustration over a person in front of him; possibly the light had turned green, and the person in front was a second too slow in moving. This sudden burst of anger directed at this one person had the power to affect the bodies of others, without the driver likely even realizing it. We sometimes forget we live in a collective world experiencing our realities together. Our actions, thoughts, and even feelings have tangible effects on others even if we aren’t consciously aware of it. He made this point sink in especially to those who were mothers and fathers because this can have implications when considering your state of mind around your own kids. Are you unintentionally directing anger towards them? Can they hear you screaming/yelling at each other? Kids are also more sensitive to subtle feelings of negativity that we tend to lose as we get older.

In order to achieve true forgiveness in any situation, Max said you must release the anger within yourself towards that which you are attempting to forgive. By not forgiving you can only be holding some level of anger. Allowing it to reside in this state becomes a self-imposed prison. A prison of resentment and contempt. It’s akin he mentioned to swallowing poison and hoping another will die. You can only hurt yourself if you harbor that resentment against another. Continually brooding on the past in this way creates patterns in your mind of negativity. This negativity continues in a vicious cycle which soon spreads through your body in certain ways (high blood pressure, high stress, fear, etc.). We tend to focus on these negative moments, the drama, the gossip, rather than playing back our most precious and joyful moments. We for some reason choose to play back upsetting moments in our minds thousands of times in comparison to only a few times the moments that made us cry in pure happiness. He made the analogy that it was almost like everyday we would have 2 options of movies to play within our minds: a horror movie of events from our past or a movie about our greatest accomplishments or happiest times. We choose to place this horror movie in our minds and press play over and over again and the effects are simply reflected in ourselves. The people we resent or feel anger towards don’t feel this when you’re thinking about them. They could be living their own life of gratitude and maybe in a moment of regret they hurt you in some way which left you to hold that grudge. Even if they hadn’t, in the end you have no way of knowing and are literally hurting yourself.

He gave the analogy that it is almost like keeping a hot coal in your body, burning a hole inside of you slowly. This analogy he gave was the simplest way to explain it. Imagine your friend seeing you swallow a hot coal. He tells you “No! No! Don’t swallow it! You’re only hurting yourself!”. But you do it anyways; you tell him it’s not right and you shouldn’t have to forgive this act and so you will hold on to the coal. Without spitting the coal out, in the end, you simple continue to hurt yourself. No matter how terrible the act was.

He made it very clear however that while you forgive, you don’t give up your choices you make afterwards, your boundaries, or even your ethics or morals. You can always forgive a person but never condone an action that was committed. You can forgive the person and release your own anger while continuing to condemn the acts of the perpetrator.

He gave some examples of people who live their lives in this way. The Dalai Lama is a household name and is known for his jovial presence wherever he is. Throughout his life, he has much to be hateful for, to be angry towards; all the atrocities committed in Tibet which led to his exile. He could even hold resentment towards China today, but he doesn’t. He forgives China, but is an activist and speaks about the change he wants to see. He practices a religion of kindness because to feel any other way would be internally counter-productive to his well being.

Nelson mandala was known for saying he forgave his captors when leaving prison because he felt he would still be in a prison if he couldn’t do so.

Max then told a touching story of a father of a teenage girl who was raped and murdered by a serial killer who cried and forgave the killer at the trial. When the media asked him afterwards how he could forgive such a man, he said he couldn’t imagine the father he’d be to his other children if he held a deep seated hatred towards the killer. He did not want there to be any barriers for him to give pure love to his children. And so he cried and forgave a man that did the unspeakable because he wanted to release the anger from himself while never condoning the act itself.

Without even really thinking about it, I’ve had the above picture as my wallpaper on my computer since last Thanksgiving and coincidentally around the time I even wrote a post entitled “Gratitude”. I did it to remind myself to be grateful for even a moment every time I opened my laptop. One exercise Max mentioned during his talk was the practice of gratitude at the end of each day. I want to adapt this for myself and so am challenging not only myself but anyone else who wants to join in to do so. The task is simple.

For the next 30 days, in a small journal or notebook, write down 5 things you are grateful for before going to bed. They can be as simple as the air you are breathing right now. Just feel in your heart what makes you so thankful at the present moment and write it down. You will now be thinking for at least a moment every night about the happy and wonderful things in your life you take for granted every day. A small change can make a big impact. It takes 30 days to form a habit. I will be posting my daily entries the next 30 days to Twitter and Facebook with the hashtags “#30days of #gratitude”. Join me in this challenge either publicly or privately on your own and just objectively see the change it has on your life. I hope we can collectively become more grateful together.