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Category: Growth

Holding The Paradox

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Holding the Paradox.

I can help you solve all your problems. The answer is simple; deceptively simple. It speaks volumes not only about the nature of life (and dealing with problems) but it also speaks intimate volumes about who we are and what consciousness actually is.

Are you ready? I’m glad that you’re reading this on your computer or phone, because if we were sitting together in person, over a cup of coffee (of course), you may reach out, slap me, and spill the coffee. And while I don’t, particularly, enjoy being slapped, that was some really, really good coffee.

The answer is you must learn to hold the paradox. It means accepting creative and cognitive dissonance. It means learning to be ok with not being ok. It means learning to identify friction; and learning to understand that this is all a natural part of the creative unfoldment of life.

Cognitive or Creative Dissonance is a state of growth, in which the one experiencing the cognitive dissonance often feels uncomfortable. So, if you are reading this article hoping to find comfort, I invite you to consider perhaps another definition of comfort: it’s not a comfort like a tuning out the world and being taken care of kind of comfort…that’s not really my message. My message is that the comfort at the end of cognitive dissonance is one of empowered growth. It’s the confidence that can arise from taking the necessary steps to work through your pain, suffering, or problems instead of running away from them.
Relax. It comes one step at a time – one day at a time.
This doesn’t mean wallow in painful experiences, just work through it. If you’re stuck in the mud, sometimes it’s really hard to get going. I know. I get it. I’ve struggled with crippling depression, anxiety, and could be considered high-functioning autistic due to my empathy and the codependant environment I experienced in my early childhood . It took me a lot of pain to finally take steps to get help, and to learn to first walk, then run myself. But if I hadn’t taken action, then I may have sunk.
So what kept me from sinking? I got upset. I got angry. And these emotions are motivating! Have you ever read the story of the 2 frogs that fell into the jar of buttermilk? One looked up at the opening of the jar, out of reach, and said “We’ll never jump up there! We might as well give up now.” That frog rolled over and drowned. The other frog, noticing that if she didn’t kick then she would drown, started kicking. She kicked and kicked and kicked until that buttermilk around her churned into butter. Resting a bit, she was overwhelmed with joy that her ferocious will to live turned into her way out of her buttermilk jar. She hopped out.

This fire is what is necessary to get out of the buttermilk jar. Keep taking action, keep moving, and your life will respond positively.

Cognitive Dissonance is feeling the cosmic pull between a version of you in the past, and who you are now. It also means feeling the cosmic pull between who you are now and who you are becoming. If you’re a growth-oriented human being, like me!, you must get used to this experience. In fact, I’ve learned to love this maddening in-between world.

Learning To Be Ok with Not Being Ok

It’s strange. There is a certain toxic rigidity in today’s positivity culture that is dangerous. Yes, there is something to be said about getting your mind right and thinking and saying positive things. But this also means that you need to take care of yourself by choosing a healthy outlet in which you can say whatever it is you need to say in order to express your emotions. Believe me; by delaying this natural emotional expression you are giving these emotions MORE weight than they need. They don’t just go away. They need an out.

Learning to be ok with not being ok is comes down to one word: Acceptance. The Paradox here is that Acceptance is the first step to change. If you want to change something, first you have to accept it for what it is. That means letting go of denial, or trying to paint over your problems. Realize that life has ups and downs. If you put on the brakes when you’re going downhill emotionally, you miss out on the momentum you’d receive from that experience that will end up propelling you forward.

It’s all part of the natural creative unfoldment of life

Life must have paradox in order to exist. Think about this: The fact that we are spiritual, limitless beings, experiencing limitation, is a profound paradox. Perhaps the most logical choice of a limitless being is to experience limitation. What else would an infinite being have to do with unlimited time?
How to detect paradox
As a fun excercise, keep an eye out for paradox: contradictions, contrast, juxtaposition. If you attune your mind to look for these things, you will begin to notice more and more in your world. Things that don’t seem like they go together, nevertheless going together. It’s a way that you can challenge your mind and stretch it. It is beneficial to stretch the mind like stretching a muscle, so that we can remain calm and pliable when the paradox approaches.
Phyliss Furumoto, Current Grandmaster of Usui Reiki, spoke about this experience. I had the rare privilege of training with her in San Francisco in May 2016. It was a beautiful workshop, the weather was sunny with a chill Pacific breeze. The workshop was mostly women, and I learned a lot about myself and how I fit into the world of Reiki. One of the things that stood out to me was that she focused on what she referred to as “creative dissonance”. The Reiki Grandmaster went on to speak specifically about using this in-between experience as a teacher for our own spiritual development. I was particularly impressed with the power with which she spoke about the very metaphysical subject of Reiki

Holding the paradox is the act of embracing the state of creative dissonance. Maybe it’s this grit, this grind (yes, I’m from Memphis), that is the grist for the mill of growth.

The paradox of being and becoming
Simply being a human being IS a paradox! We are spiritual beings – we are souls – AND we are also bodies. It’s not “i am my body” or “I am a soul, not a body” it’s BOTH. In Plato’s “Timeaus”, the speaker talks about being and becoming – a recommended read (warning: it gets OUT THERE).

Toaism and Paradox
The Toaist text the I Ching outlines that there are only really two energies – Yin, and Yang. However, life is often more complicated than this. You can have Yin within Yin. You can have Yang within Yin. You can also have Yin within Yang, and Yang within Yang. Make sense?

Without going into too much complicated detail (I’ll leave that to you if you feel like diving in on your own time), the ancient chinese described 62 archetypal states of consciousness that exist between the two absolute polarities Yin and Yang. These are the 64 states of being outlined by 64 hexagrams (symbols)

Contained in between total Yin and total Yang – are 62 shades of grey. These are the wonders, hopes, dreams, fears, and failures of human experience.

The Toaist seeks to understand that every human experience outlined by the symbolism of the 64 hexagrams is another way of observing the paradox. If we observe the unfoldment of the universal flow, we have a choice. We can look at it with disdain, perturbed and judgemental; we can look at it neutrally, objective and aloof, or we can look at it with love, smiling and grateful.

To hold the paradox is to understand that, while a problem may seem overwhelming, you can work towards a better tomorrow without leaving the problem or checking out completely. And remember: it’s healthy to be able to experience your emotions as you work through a problem.

Throughout this journey of understanding the value of holding the paradox, remember to go easy on yourself. Life should, and often is, easy. It is in trying to do too much, be too much, or control too much that we can trip ourselves up. Remember that paradox is a part of life, and the more we can accept this, the more we can align ourselves with it, and the more we can understand about ourselves and conscoiusness itself.

Until Next Time,

Much Love,

Tim

On the Road with GTBB…How’d I Get Here?

Hey! Yoooooooo what just happened….what is happening in my life?

In the month of May alone, I’ve signed hundreds of autographs, washed myself in both the waters of Lake Huron Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, and now we’re driving from Silver City New Mexico through the night to Las Vegas to hit a soundcheck at noon tomorrow. How did I get here?

It’s been a blur since I decided to come on board with The Ghost Town Blues Band, but it’s the best kind of blur – a busy, creative, hustle-now kind of blur. A traveling band – a mythical group of heyoka riding into your town to shake your blues away – it seems like a thing out of a dream. But this is exactly what we do! I get to shake people out of their tired routine by providing my best musical performance with a group of cool musicians.

Again, how did I get here?

To make a long story short, it’s come down to three things for me:

1) Be Patient

I ran into Matt Isbell, the lead singer and guitar player of Ghost Town Blues Band when I was at the post office, of all places. We had played together maybe once or twice before (A common experience in Memphis TN, as most everybody plays with everybody), but it had been a while since that day. He was shipping something for his Cigar Box Guitar business, and I was trying to arrange a PO box so I can get my Retirement Home gigs checks mailed to a business address. This was my third visit to the post office that day, and I was just hearing (from the same people) that I needed yet another sheet of paper. I’m usually very patient, but at this point I was absolutely appalled by their egregious incompetence (if it wasn’t downright dissidence for common decency!)

I was at the point where any normal human being would have been totally justified in yelling at these post office workers, I decided it wasn’t worth it and said something curteus, and stepped away.

I played with them after a while – I liked the group and they liked me too.

But it was only later that I found out that my display of patience at the post office was a top reason why I was called upon to play keys with this group. (Another reason is that my criminal record is spotless and Canada requires spotless records for entry, and for some reason it’s rare to find a keys player in Memphis whose record is as such. Ha – what does that say about keys players, i wonder?)

2) Taking an inventory of all my opportunities

My homie Jack Simon swears by magic boards. What are magic boards? It’s showerboard from Homedepot, cut or uncut. Add 2 or 3 dry erase markers, and a rich imagination. Viola!

I use magic boards to keep track of my ideas, and one night when I was feeling overwhelmed (by the pressure i often put on myself), I wrote out all of my opportunities.

This is recommended – often times we can take for granted the opportunities that life presents us. It is up to us, though, to tune out perception to see the opportunities available to us. Ask yourself:

How can i contribute? How can i better serve with my gifts? What service can i perform that brings me the most happiness?

and lastly… What opportunities are available to me right now?

I’ve learned that sometimes life doesn’t let you wait…sometimes life rewards the go-getters and the red-veined adventurers who live for risk and glory.

I wish I was this type of person. i really wish i was! But I’m not. I’m cautious, and I approach inter-personal relationships very gingerly.

But sometimes life will wait for you to decide what you want and who you are, and equip you with the confidence to take advantage of your best opportunities.

And how will you know what your opportunities are if you don’t write them down? Just do it – once you have 5 you’ll probably remember even more.

I wrote down 5 or 6 income opportunities on my magic board that cold day in April. I was working 10-14 hour days at the Juice Bar and on my own hustles…I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it was hard. I was hoping to start a Facebook Ads agency – I was so hooked on the implicit promises of wealth from expert internet marketers that Matt Isbell’s invitation to jam was the last thing on my mind. But i still wrote it out.

Over the next several days I would look up at these opportunities casually, thinking little of them.

But I was over at Jack’s again, and Preston (of Ghost Town Blues Band) called Jack to chat about something. I asked to speak with Preston, and the rest is history: we secured a time when i could sit it in on a gig in Memphis. Interestingly enough, this was the same place where i played a gig with them about 7 years ago!

3) Consistent playing and practice

Musicians! Just do it. I know I’m a terrible example…I’m super (perhaps overly) consistent for some time periods, while others I have to check out and NOT play and practice consistently. I’ve been in bands for more than half of my life, and it’s always been this way. Be consistent, but be flexible. The bottom lines are this: You have to practice and play to get better, and you need to balance that consistent playing and practice with period of rest. Why? Because this isn’t a goddamn cog-in-the-machine, mindless, worker-bee occupation. You are a human being that the music and the audience benefits when you take time to be and grow your soul. This isn’t a “hustle now and relax later” kind of job. This is life. Playing music is the kind of thing that retired millionaires spend all their time trying to learn, only to (sometimes) learn that it’s not as easy as it looks.  You have to be good, so practice!

My consistent playing and practice has made me a good musician. Maybe not great, but good. How to get to the next level? Woah, i’m not getting ahead of myself here…My good friend who is a martial artist and dances and performs with the Memphis Ballet Ensemble says this: Learn the form. Master the form. Forget the form.

Right now with The Ghost Town Blues Band I am learning the form. It’s humbling, but I know that it’ll be worth it.

Opportunities. The more you learn to look for them, the more you’ll receive. Or perhaps the very act of looking for them is what creates them! Either way, you won’t know unless you do it. Make a list of your opportunities, and be grateful. This is clutch! Do it, my friends – you won’t regret it.

Until next time,

Tim

P.S. I’m on the tourbus on the way to Las Vegas right now. Haha – cool.

Bigger Than The Bear

Staying Small

Why do we stay small? I’m not talking about physical stature. I’m talking about how we some people show up in the world. It’s easy to get locked into one pattern of behavior or the other, whether dominant or submissive. But outside this polarity, I believe there exists an intrinsic quality that is often overlooked: Willpower.
Domination and submission are very common qualities in all human relationships. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with this dynamic. It doesn’t have to be sexual either (Although it can be 😉 ). I think it’s a natural dynamic that has arisen out of years of humanity needing dominant leaders to survive.

But what about love? What about cooperation? To be sure, the principles of cooperation, understanding, and compassion are all incredibly important in any kind of relationship. Empathy, the ability to feel others’ feelings, helps you to understand the emotional consequences of your actions in the lives of others.

But what does this have to do with staying small?

Personal willpower is domination of your inner demons. Other people’s inner demons respond when confronted with your will power. By inner demons I’m referring to fear, jealousy, low self worth, toxic shame, negative thinking, etc. If you have mastered these valid aspects of yourself then other people will sense it in you.

But first they will likely challenge you, in which case, you must make yourself bigger than the bear.

Bigger Than The Bear

I have a friend who trains martial arts, and I recently had the rare opportunity to learn from him (he NEVER does this, so I need to emphasize how grateful I am that he shared with me some of his philosphy!)
Of the lessons that he taught me, one that has stuck with me came out of this situation:

We were playing around, not quite sparring, but playing around, and I fell into some familiar patterns of martial movement based on my Capoiera training. When he advanced on me in an attack, I immediately fell to the ground into my familiar floorwork. Because I hadn’t trained in a while, my floor game wasn’t sufficient to defend against my friends attacks. He just had this dominant energy that I didn’t know how to approach. If we were actually fighting, I would have been toast.

I became frustrated and finally asked for some help.

He compassionately instructed me to imagine I was in the woods, perhaps camping alone, and I happen upon a bear. An angry bear – a hungry bear.

“You have to make yourself bigger than the bear.” he said.

I placed my hands up in the air, imagined seeing a bear in the woods, and I felt incredibly awkward. I’m sure I looked like I was trying to flag down UFOs for a sparkle pony lazer party.

But he continued: “No, you have to make your ENERGY bigger than the bear”.

That’s when it clicked.

Anyone in my life who has ever pushed me around (and, admittedly, it’s been quite a few), has always been bigger than me. Not in physical stature, although that has sometimes been the case, but in ENERGY. I imagined my ENERGY as bigger than the bear.
In my codependent family, I had to make myself small to survive. I was bear food. But this energetic pattern of behavior is not helping me in situations now, where, as an adult, I am confronted with angry/hungry bearish behavior in others.

Putting it to the Test

Shortly after my impromptu martial arts class I was in a situation where someone was verbally abusing me – calling me names, trolling me. I was with a female friend. I remembered my training and instead of making myself smaller, instead of reacting with more verbal abuse, I just stared at this person and made my energy bigger than the bear. Everyone in the room felt the shift. My female friend grabbed me by the arm as if to say “he’s not worth it” – like she was restraining me or holding me back from a fight. I wasn’t looking for a fight but at the same time I wasn’t going to let this person abuse me anymore. I imagined this person as a bear and I made my energy bigger than him, bigger than any name calling he was throwing at me. With that energetic shift I was able to cause the bear to back down without a single word or fist. The abuser ended up apologizing afterwards.

After this experience I’ve been reflecting on how, without realising it, most of my life I’ve made myself smaller than the bear because I knew no other way of being.

What are some examples of bears in your life? Try to come up with a few examples and imagine making your energy bigger than the bear. It’s the only way to stop it from eating you! Your life is important, and valuable. Don’t let these bears devour you.

College was a bear for me. Some musical relationships were bears. My parents and siblings were, for the most part; bears. This isn’t to shame or blame them – most people don’t realize when they act out the basic human traits of domination. But what sucks is that a lot of the time this imposition of bearishness can squelch the redeeming qualities of love and compassion and dignity and respect.

But I believe, firmly, that by adopting the practice of making oneself bigger than the bear, that we can teach other human beings – on a cellular level, which is really an energetic level – that we are not to be dominated. (again, this isn’t in the sexual context, you kinky lovers).

If we become the dominant beings we have a choice, and, imho, a responsibility to be compassionately dominant. I choose to use my will to teach others, to trust others and earn their trust in me. I want to lead, if not for the sole reason that I’ve allowed myself – based on past “small Tim” conditioning – to fall victim to the inept leadership of incompetent people.

And you know, it’s almost as if, by asserting ourselves as being bigger than the bear, that whole Domination/Submission dynamic has the opportunity to eat itself by the the tail and totally dissolve itself – which, to some, is terrifying because it is their entire view of reality – but, I would put forth, confidently, that there exists a world outside of this dynamic in human relationships: one of mutual cooperation, negotiation, respect, and reason; and that when the bear is conquered there must exist something else, and we, as conscious beings, have the choice and the duty to perpetuate these principles in our own lives, and in the lives of others with whom we share influence.

Let’s become bigger than the bears, and let’s let the bears see our soft courage and our open hearts, and perhaps, too, these bears will become human again.

Peace and goodwill.

Tim

The Rules of The Game Blogpost

The rules of the game
This life is a game. We can laugh and play, and there may or may not be a point, depending on how you play. We are all from divinity, a whole, conscious entity of some sort. In this phase of the evolution of divinity, divinity has deemed it integral to place pieces of itself within each one of us. This is true creative potential, and we may use it however we choose.

It is up to us, however, to also figure out what the rules are! So what are the rules?
Depending on what your world view is, you may have different answers. The ten commandments, the laws of the Torah, different spiritual principles, etc. But since you’re reading my blog post, you’re probably already an open minded person (or you haven’t found my left field stuff yet – keep looking 😉 ) and relate more to the “spiritual but not religious” approach.

I know I do.
But spirituality isn’t a goal that is achieved – it is consciousness, in this moment, right now, and this consciousness is spirituality itself. There are many traditions of spiritual practices that are performed as a way of life, and many people confuse spirituality with spiritual practices. Both are valid, but this distinction must be recognized.

Spirituality is a state of being, of connection, of oneness. Union.
Spiritual practices are culturally and sociologically influenced practices surrounding spirituality, the most effective among them creating space for awareness of spirituality to occur.
Are you awakened to your true spiritual nature?
Many people go through their lives without questioning anything. Are they wrong? It’s not up to me to say. Sometimes I envy such a person because it seems like, from the outside, that their life is easier than mine. But I have to question; I question everything. Why? Because from an early age, my experience of reality was different from the one that my environmentally imposed religious practices suggested.

For example: I had a lucid dream at the age of 4, and I knew that it was different from a regular dream. This dream was terribly frightening to me, and that fear brought me to what some might call the astral plane: I had an out of body experience (OBE). My parents could not or did not want to explain this to me. My environmentally imposed religion suggested that such things happened, but only in stories; so my reality changed. I had this experience that was quite mystical to me – even at a very young age – and I had these messages coming in about life that seemed in congruent with my experience of reality.

I began to question! I questioned my parents; whom, in my innocence, I revered like gods. I asked them my existential questions of the nature of the universe and was met with confusing responses, often insinuating that I shouldn’t question things in the first place. This created instances of imposing their beliefs onto me, or, in the worst cases, breaking my will. I am grateful now that I was a stubborn and while, yes, my will was broken many times, I’ve still retained the value of the experiencing the truth of my own experience.
You may have had a similar experience – you have a mystical awakening somehow, whether through dreams, creativity, yoga, with a lover, at a music festival, etc, and you need to tell someone. While those around you may support you and encourage you, if the haven’t had a similar experience to what you are describing, they can’t validate it for you. So, you need to seek out those who have, indeed, had similar experiences.
Awakening to your true spiritual nature.
Spiritual awakenings are commonplace these days, yet that doesn’t negate the amazing power they posses to impact and drastically change ones life.
So, now that you are awaken(ed/ing) to your true spiritual nature, what do you do? “Now that you’ve found out who you are, what do you want to be?” *
This isn’t up to me to answer, but I can give some suggestions for what to do after you’ve had a spiritual awakening, most of this based on my own life experience.

Heal – If you’re like me, it’s likely that, due to circumstances beyond your control, you have been placed in trying situations from which is seems difficult to escape. My family life was like that – so many cords of codependency pulling at me (in total fairness, I was co dependently pulling at them as well – that’s how it works!). It was such a journey to save up enough to move out of that environment. Once I did, I realized that I needed to heal many untouched patterns of behavior that were doing me more harm than good. I made space in my life to heal. So make space in your life for you to heal! Do yoga, meditate, clean up your diet, exercise more, build your support network, and educate yourself on how to change behavioral patterns. Its fascinating stuff! If you’re having a tough time, hire a coach to help you out. I’m considering creating a course or mentorship program in which I can help people do just that. (let me know in the comments if you are interested).
Regroup – After you’ve gone through the bulk of your healing, it’s time to regroup. It’s a funny way of describing it, but regrouping is like reevaluating. Healing will put you in contact with your heart, and your heart can often tell you where you need to go, if you know how to listen. Your heart has a wisdom of its own. For me, it was writing an inspiring work of fiction that’s enjoyable, fun, funny, that also includes lessons in lucid dreaming and spiritual growth and development. The re-grouping phase is a time to set new intentions based on what you learned in your healing.

Refresh – experience the joy and beauty of being an entirely new person based on your growth and development!

Teach – now it’s time to level up – you need to teach what you know, or chronicle it, or journal it somehow. I truly believe that spiritual lessons are made more valuable once we teach them. This could be a mystical process, or a marketing process. In my case, I’m looking for a way to combine both so that I can reach more people with my message.

Combined approach
These lessons can come one after another, sequentially, or it can be a grab-bag. I think that how I prefer to ingest them has a bit to do with the order in which they arrive, yet it seems that often they’ll surprise me. There’s no telling what the future holds, but I know and trust that that I put into it is what I will get out of it.

I will invest in myself and in growing my soul for the divine benefit of all humanity. That’s my tip for today.

Love, Tim

P.S. Comment! Let me know what you think, how you are doing, and what you ate for breakfast. I had a smoothie 🙂
* quote a song by a group that ushered in a new age of spiritual practices to the world back in the 60s, The Beatles.

The Self Employment Blogpost

(I found this post that I wrote before I took a job working at a juice bar. There are various reasons why I did this, most notably to find my “main hustle”, which requires a great deal of soul searching. The juice bar job gave me the space and security to feel safe exploring. But I thought these words were interesting, and have a different perspective now, so here it is!

warmly, Tim)

I am writing this post after a year of successful self-employment. It will consist of 1) why I did it 2) how I did it and 3) what I recommend based on my experience

Why I did it
I was born into poverty! In Boston, MA, my mother was a school teacher and my father held pickup jobs at bookstores, and worked as a janitor. My father told me at a very young age (and quite mournfully) that at some point I would have to submit to someone’s authority. I’m not sure what happened in his life to generate this world view, but the energy with which he said it was so hopeless that I almost immediately began to lose trust in him. (Authority and trust are two concepts that I will weave into this post, as they both play a very important part in my decision making process.) Looking back on the way that my father chose to raise me, he actually did me a huge favor. Because he chose to exercise unquestionable authority, and because I was naturally a curious child, I learned that “authority”, as represented in my mind by my Dad, didn’t have all the answers! Throughout my entire childhood and early adulthood, I had trust issues because of it. But these trust issues caused me to question. I questioned authority, silently at first, around 7 years old. Then when I was 16 and could drive, I rebelled outright against my father’s control issues by getting a girlfriend (it was implied that I was to be there for my parent’s emotional support when they got divorced.) If this sounds strange, that’s because it is! I grew up in a dysfunctional family.

In a dysfunctional family, the dynamics are such that much of the time the parents had unmet needs when they were children. Instead of dealing with it (many don’t), often times what happens is they look to their children to fulfill that need. It’s really not ok; it is abusive and detrimental in many ways to growing a healthy adult. In my childhood there was much physical abuse, covert contracts, and boundary violations. I don’t need to get into specifics, but I’m sharing this because I know I’m not the only one who experienced this! Since I’ve had much time to reflect and heal, let’s get back to the positives.

The takeaway from all this is that I learned that blindly following authority was insufficient. It didn’t work to get me needs met, and I didn’t want to end up like my Dad. I just wanted to party, have sex, and play music in bands. And into my early 20’s, I did that! It was a great way to distract myself from the emotional resonance of years of living in a dysfunctional family. Also, It was fucking fun 😛

Here’s the meat of the story: When I was 25, because of financial reasons, I moved back in with my Dad. I felt so defeated at the time: I had just broken up with a very close girlfriend, I was broke financially, and internally. To top it all off, my dad had not out-grown his authoritarian control and expressly forbade me from having women over (first at night, then when I broke that rule, AT ALL). Yeah, I was 25, remember?!

I enjoy the company of women. But basically he was forbidding me from being and adult in the way I wanted to be, which I could not tolerate. So what did I do? I got a job. First at the movie theater, but that was only part time and I didn’t enjoy ripping tickets and policing and being disrespected by movie-goers. So I quit around Christmas 2013. Then, I got unknowingly involved with a pyramid scheme of sorts with an insurance company. I studied my ass off and passed the state insurance exam in about 3 weeks time. Then I started my business of insuring families – life insurance. The only thing was, I didn’t know how to generate good leads! It felt very incongruent to put out a vibe of success and being able to handle something as important as a death in the family when I was still unhappy and living in my dads house. To top it all off, I didn’t make much money, and my trainer kept stealing my business. I didn’t have the gall or confidence or self-respect to stand up for myself and tell him to stop. So I failed at that.

Next I put myself in the position to get a customer service job. I auditioned for a temp agency that worked for a very large corporation (Disney). The customer service warehouse was located about 10 minutes from my Dad’s house, so it was convenient. I worked for Disney for about 5 months. It was tough work emotionally, as anyone in the customer service industry knows. Especially as an empath, I absorbed much of the toxic energy through the phone. It felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, and there was no where to turn.

I actually may have shot myself in the foot with this one. I’ll explain why. I was probably one of the best representatives they had! In evaluations, after about 2 months I was in the top 5. They quickly promoted me to floor manager (I was the guy that customers talked to when they said “Can I speak with your suprvisor?”. That was incredibly emotionally taxing, because I didn’t feel like I got any support from my superiors. I was just a barrier to them. I hated it! So, I looked for other opportunities, and a friend hooked me up with a delivery job in midtown memphis. I was already planning on leaving when the talent agency offered me a position in the coveted “loss prevention” department. I would get 4 extra dollars an hour, and it would be behind the scenes work instead of front-line stuff. As an introvert, i probably could have thrived in that position. But, I already had my sights on the delivery job where I could be in my car and listen to my music and dress however I wanted. This decision was probably an unconscoius relfection of my learned distaste for authority and also my trust issues at the time. I didn’t trust the authority to take care of my needs. I have learned since that standing up for oneself is the first step to getting ones needs met, but i lacked the personal confidence and dignity that I have now. Plus, they offered me the Loss Prevention job with the caveat that they needed me for the busy season (Halloween-Christmas) and that I would have the chance to sign on with Disney (not the temp agency) if I did a good job. Of course I would have done a good job – i was obsessed with over-performing because I did not feel like I was ever inherently good enough (good for them, not for Tim!).

So I quit. I just stopped going in. My delivery job picked up, and I moved in August 2014 to my own apartment, paying my own rent, working weekends, but feeling much better about not living under my fathers roof.

BUT this is a story about self employment, right? Well, moving out of my dad’s and supporting myself was an important step in this journey. I worked that delivery job for a year, and saved up about $5,000. It’s not alot, but it was $5,000 more than I had a year before! I started hating the job though – my boss was disrespectful (and authoritarian like my Dad!)

How I did it

I have a friend who had been self-employed for some time and when we’d get together we would talk about wealth, time-freedom, and the benefits of self-employement and owning a business. He helped me to create ideas about how to support myself and make my own money. I had always been a musician, but I stopped playing because I didn’t like being underpaid to play in smoky bars and get little sleep. But, i had at times an occasional solo jazz gig at a retirement community. Jack helped me craft a plan to talk with activities directors at retirement communities and book enough gigs to support myself. Also, too, he had an open room in his house that I moved into, which was a load off because It was stupid cheap rent. Really, I was paying less than $200 a month for rent!

I remember that first month – I had a goal to reach $1,000 in gigs, and I surpassed it! It felt so amazing to do so. I was on top of the world! In memphis, you can find renting situations that are very cheap because property values are low. This was a huge help too.

What I reccomend based on my experience

As a self-employed person, I have become increasingly aware of the value of my time. When you’re employed, you generate a specific amount no matter how dead or inspired you feel. When self-employed, if you can anticipate the times you will feel inspired, you can time that with your value creation process. I’m getting a little ahead, so lets break it down to some practical advice on making the transition from employed to self employed.

1) Have a safety net. I worked to save up $5,000. This helped to cover my expenses and give me peace of mind. That way if I had a bad month, I could survive long enough to hit the next month extra hard. I can’t stress how important this was for me to relax and jump into the change.

2) Learn how to make money. This seems like a given, but going from employed to self-employed forces you to change your way of viewing things. As an employee, your earning potential is capped. When you are self-employed, your earning potential is dependent on the amount of value you can create for others. Ask yourself: What is the single most value producing thing you can do? For me, at the time, it was playing an hour piano performance at retirement communities. I was already good at it because I had studied piano in college, and I had one reoccuring quarterly gig at a prestigous retirement communiy in Memphis. I knew that many retirement communities in Memphis had a budget for entertainment already, so it was up to me to tap into that. I learned to sell myself by focusing on rapport building (my insurance training came in handy here!). I would walk into a community, speak with the activities dircetor, build rapport, and causally ask If I could see their piano, under the guise that I would check it out to make sure it was in tune. This had the subtle effect of creating even more value for them on the front end, which helps them to be open to reciprocating. If you go into a sales situation thinking only of what you can get out of it, your focus is off. Focus instead on how you can create value for the other person. In this case I was creating value by checking the tuning on their piano for free. Then, I would wow them with some flashy trills. More value on the front end. Notice that I didn’t have a recording to give them through all of this. I do recommend a recording, but don’t let them take the recording if you don’t have a change to build value on the front end. Physically driving up there and speaking face-to-face helped me to generate much better rapport than a phone-call or email.

Another thing I learned is that you have to treat customers like any other relationship. After the intitial sale, it’s bad form to imeadiatly rush into asking for reoccuring (monthly) business. That would be like going out on a first date and expect to be in a relationship automatically. You need to take time to let things blossom naturally. Stay in communication, but do so politely, from the perspective of adding value and making their life easier.
For exmaple, showing up to a gig with an invoice makes the activities director’s life easier! Do it.
I have several reoccuring monthly gigs at these communities now, but only after I allowed a significant amount of time to pass. It takes time to build trust, so do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. At first I was frustrated with the amount of time it took to build this trust because I was afraid of not having enough money, but now I can see that it actually gave me time to learn which communiteis I liked working with and which I didn’t. So it was a selection process for me too.

I’ve been supporting myself on these gigs for a year now! I also have learned to supplement my income in other ways. For example, I also teach Reiki at a local yoga studio and give sessions to people who want it. This is another example of how I’m adding value with my time.

Moving forward, Focus on multipliers
As I move forward, I am focusing on multipliers. A year of self-employment has given me the insight that as long as I am creating value (that people will pay for!), I am successful and can pay my bills. I believe that once you figure money out, your life because very easy. If money is an issue, the engine of life remains un-oiled. Money lubricates the flow of life. This is my reality, and I am creating it.

About 7 months into my self-employement, I had lox and lattes with a good friend of mine, another self-employed man. He owns a contruction and investment firm. I explained to him that I anticipated getting burnt out creatively on my nursing home gigs around August. I had an idea to sell my contracts to different retirement communities, but now I want to get into a different business. Ultimatly, I learned that retirement communities money moves about a month slow. In other words, I create value (play the gig), and get paid about a month later. I hated this! I want my money to move fast, so I can spend or invest it faster. I believe that the speed of money and money multipliers are the keys to wealth, and wealth is important to me.
So now I’m at the place in my life where it seems like the only thing left to do is work on cultivating new income streams. I’ll update you as I go. Keep in mind that I’m not quitting the gigs cold-turkey; I’m still playing them and respecting these relationships. They pay my bills. I do have time freedom to write blog posts, create more value, build more relationships, and learn about what other ways I can help people and make money.

This is not the endof the journey, but it is the end of the blogpost! I hope that my journey can serve as some inspiration to you for the future, and maybe get you thinking about the different ways that you can take control of your life and your financial future. Don’t spend money you don’t have, but do focus on creating more value for others in mutually win-win situations. Play with a bunch of ideas, see what you like, see what people will pay for, and when you find an idea that does both, run with it! Get support of friends who have been there before (like i did with mine). Surround yourself with people that are where you want to be a learn from them. Listen more. Let them express their wealth vibration. The more you listen, the better you will pick up on subtle things that they do or embody that you can emulate. Learn, Learn, Learn, and stay positive. Your Neo-Cortex will help you decide what the next right move is. If you get stuck, ask yourself “What is my next right move?” For me, It’s working on creating a Reiki course for massage practitioners in need of CEUS! We’ll see how that goes. I’m excitied about it because of it’s multiplier capabilities (aka scalability).
Ok that’s it for me. See you next time!
UPDATE: For various reasons, about three months after i wrote this post, I decided to get a job at a juice bar. Why? Did I fail? No, of course not! My businesses and side hustle are still going on, but I am changing.

i don’t want to just work on side hustles as self employment income – what’s my MAIN hustle? Is it the juice bar? at the moment, yes, in that I am doing 25-30 hours a week there, but c’mon – that’s just part time anyways!

My main hustle has been writing Igby, a sci-fi/fantasy novel. What will this look like in the future? I don’t know! But I plan to add value to other’s lives by creating an enjoyable book.
I feel that this is a topic for another post, but until next time, keep on!

Defining Identity, Flexibly Part II

Greetings Friends!

For this post I am drawing on a few ideas I wrote about in Defining Identity, Flexibly Part I. (In which I talked about the difference between permanent and impermanent identities, and also the difference between national and galactic identities. I was going through a time where I was very interested in understanding how different national identities influences the politics and ethos of different regions of the united states, so most of my time was spent explaining that, and applying it as a metaphor for inner thoughts and beliefs.)

This leads me to question to what extent we are a result of our surroundings and to what extent we control our conscious evolution.

My Story
I was given the rare opportunity to be born on the east coast, the son of two New Yorkers and then, when I was 10, relocating with my family to Memphis, TN. I specifically remember the day when my first buddy down here convinced me to wear my hair down and stop slicking it back the Sicilian way that my grandfather had taught me. After that I played a long game of trying to fit into Southern culture. I found music, which was quite liberating given the nature of the open-minded people who frequented the local jam-band scene.

But when I really wanted to follow my natural creative tendencies, I hit resistance. My band mates kept wanting to play the more traditional Southern rock tunes that I never really resonated with. At the time I also heard Dubstep for the first time, and wanted to incorporate more electronic elements into our music, but my band mates resisted. I spent many, many years clinging to the idea that I could change them somehow, when really I was simply too frightened to let go of a creative relationship that no longer served me.

I remember back in 2010 I was coming back from a gig with Mojo Possum (one of my “possum” bands: the other was called “Copper Possum”). It must have been past three in the morning; so I was playing in bars til past three and getting up for school the next morning – looking back I let myself indulge this poor self-care routine because I thought it was cool to “burn the candles at both ends”. This was at a time when I knew that I had stopped enjoying playing in Mojo Possum, yet I was clinging onto our weekly thursday gig at Newby’s because I didn’t know of another way to make money. Earlier that week I had found a walking stick that terminated in a “Y” shape and leant it up against the side of my rental apartment; I thought it looked cool and intuitively felt like it was spiritually significant somehow. When i arrived at my house, lo and behold, situated squarely between the two branches of the “Y” was a large American Opossum aka “Possum”. This was no ordinary Possum though; most Possums will hiss and defend themselves if approached. No, this one just hung out there, looking around like a buddhist monk, seemingly content to hang out on the stick. When I approached it, though, I could see that it was very sick. I stood there with the Possum for a while, wishing that I didn’t have to experience such an obvious sign from the universe that my time with Mojo Possum was coming to an end.

Permanent vs Impermanent Identities.
My time as a blues musician is what i consider an impermanent identity, but I can still play the blues. My time as a student was an impermanent identity, yet i still retain a good amount of the information that I absorbed in that time. The only permanence that I feel like I experience in this case is the permanence of being myself as a changing and evolving being – which, paradoxically needs to include what I’ve learned from previous identities.

It’s almost that, in order to get the lessons from an impermanent identity, we need to pretend like it is permanent in order to let it sink in. We must fully commit to playing that part, like an actor in a movie. In order to play the part well, we need to be convincing. By the way, only choose parts that you are interested in and that you know you can do well. Sometimes it can be hard to see for sure which one that will be, but trust your gut – trust your intuition. You can do it! You can make the right choices for you! But when it becomes time to let it go, don’t cling to it. Just get the lessons and move on.

Nature Vs. Self Nurture in Identity
I use the term “self-nurture” to imply that as a conscious adult one has the ability to nurture oneself (not implying only self-care, but also consciously seeking out the nurturing of others in a self-directed kind of way). Our nature, one could say, is our roots and learned programming. Most people go through their entire lives without questioning who they are, or why they do the things they do. Behavior is learned, and so many want to take advantage of that process through self-directed learning.

I would put forth the idea that by combining nature AND self nurture, we can be a more complete human being: ourselves.

Here’s the gist of it: until you take control of your life, of your growth, of your habits, then you will be operating based on your conditioning: whether it be familial, societal, or something else. You will grow up thinking that you are just a cog in a machine that wants you to do something. True, there will be many ideas and paradigms imposed upon you. You have the choice to accept or reject these paradigms, but most, especially as children, decide to accept it. Where growth stops is when, as a conscious adult, we choose to continue to blindly accept the story that is imposed upon us. It can be a conscious choice, in which case I totally respect the choice of that individual. It just saddens me to see people give up their divine creative gifts to become what society, or family wants them to be.

Here’s a wake up call: YOU  have the power to make a choice and start living life more consciously. Grow. Educate yourself. Improve your skills, happiness, and awareness. Surround yourself not just with positive people, but with people that are real with you and, when asked, can tell you what they see, both positive and negative. It can be hard once you start questioning things that you may have built dreams upon – such as a car, house, a spouse, and a couple kids maybe. You can still have those things if that’s what you really want, but let it be your well-informed choice, not just a default.

I think that many people, myself included, have fallen into the trap of thinking “Oh, here’s what society/my parents/my culture wants me to be, so I’ll be that.” and then wonder why they feel unfulfilled. Again, I’m not speaking to the people who have found fulfillment in following these paths – I am speaking to those who feel like there’s something more that they are missing. And what is it that is missing from the equation? YOU are! You, as a fully realized human being, resplendent in your full potential. YOU, as a spirit in a body, creating a unique signature in all that you do. YOU, living happily, taking responsibility for your life, and realizing your dreams.

So where do you start? You have to want it. You have to realize that, in order to grow and develop yourself – your soul – you will have to stand up for who you are. Stop surrounding yourself with people who hammer you into something smaller than you are. Stop agreeing to someone else’s dream for you, if that’s not what you want. 

If you’ll join me in this journey of self-discovery, I can help you to deal with the consequences – which is a greater self-understanding, and taking more responsibility for every aspect of your life. Complaining only helps in that it helps us to identify the parts of our lives that we need to be taking more responsibility for. This isn’t just a short-term goal or mission – although it can include short term goals. I’m in it for the long game. I’m in it for the self-enrichment with ideas, knowledge, understanding, so that I can cultivate my soul and create myself as a divine being here on earth.

What are the tools, what are the rules of this game? Essentially, if it works, it is true, and the rules are that you must be in integrity with all life. I wish I could more clearly define the “rules”; maybe that’s another post for another time! But suffice it to say that most spiritual practices agree on a few different aspects of what divinity is – it’s likely that the “rules” (or guidelines 😉 ) that span cultural and continental divides are the ones that will take guide you to your true self.

As always, efficacy is the measure of truth.

Much Love,

Tim

Defining Identity, Flexibly.

Because the universe is measurably expanding (not contracting), and we are moving forward in time (not backwards), I too must be expanding and moving forward in time. I observe this through the phenomenon of growth and development, or evolution and expansion. My identity, therefor, must include the capacity for growth and expansion. 

When I define myself as a 27 year old man, this identity is temporary. When I turn 28, this identity will no longer apply to me. If I define myself as a young adult, it will last a bit longer, but still, it is a temporary identity.

Are there any permanent identities?

For the sake of clarity, yes, but keep in mind that I am choosing to frame the answer within a context of being helpful and understandable. In exploring thoughts such as these, it’s helpful to draw the lines around the context that we are examining. Without context, there are no permanent identities. Perhaps “permanence” itself is a human-made idea. There are identities that are much more permanent than others…but you can always zoom your perspective out to the point where we are looking at our entire universe as a speck of dust on the eyebrow of some giant sleeping space orca…or however you conceptualize eternity.

National Identity

What is important in examining the concept of identity is where we draw the boundaries.
In a national sense, my blood is of the nations of Sicily, Israel, Slovakia, and Poland. Note: A nation is a shared identity of people based on cultural norms and ways of being. It is not necessarily that which is contained within country boundaries. For example, the United States of America was founded initially by eleven distinct nations, each with very different customs and ways of life. This is why different regions possess strikingly different ways of life and political views.

Source: American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America Woodard, Colin.

Genetically, the peoples of the world hold no identifiable distinction in our genetic makeup. In other words, the human genetic makeup is the same in Asia as it is in Africa as it is in Europe as it is everywhere. There is a genetic difference in men and women however! (X and Y Chromosomes).

Global Identity

I believe that collectively we are birthing a global identity. Through the exponential advancement of technology, different cultural and national ideas are being released into the global soup, and, to use an Altucherian metaphor, they have idea sex.

Idea sex is based off of James Altucher’s method of consuming various seemingly disparate ideas and working towards the birthing of new ideas that would not have been possible without the idea sex.

I will expand the metaphor: in this example, cultural practices and ways of life are the differing ideas. When two seemingly disparate cultural practices meet in the global exchange (which, one could imagine, as an international lovers hotel), these cultural ideas mix, mingle, and if the mood is right, make love with each other. Naturally, some ideas get along better than others! Regrettably, as we’ve seen time and time again, some cultures rape and pillage other cultures (read: colonialism, slavery, genocide, etc).

So what is a more conscious approach? Take, for example, the culture of the Metis people in Acadia (Northern Maine and French Canada). When the area was colonized in the early 17th century by the French, the French officials established peaceful relations with the Algonquin, Mi’kmaq, and other native tribes. A cultural exchange was established in respectful terms, as desired by both parties. The resultant culture of Metis (literally “something that is half of one thing and half of another” in French) is the result of French trappers and hunters marrying and making love with Algonquin, Mi’kmaq women. Their culture is unique one, built on mutual trust and respect.

When two cultures come together in mutually trusting and respectful terms, then we often see the birth of identities that may have never existed before!

The Inner World

Now consider your inner world – your unconscious self. Inside, swirling just below the crest of awareness, are myriad untouched archetypes, existing continually until they bubble up or we call up on them. You are the world. What sort of world do you want to create? What are the nations (archetypes, ideas, etc) that exist inside of you? How can these cultures have sex and birth something new, exiting, and uniquely you? Furthermore, do you want to be a colonist, a slaver, or a murderer? Or do you want to allow the valid parts of your subconscious self the time, space, and respect that is necessary to birth a truly awesome, vibrant, aligned identity?

Galactic Identity

Woah, we just flew into outer space. This is getting way out there. If this is outside your comfort zone, skip this part. Is it possible that our galaxy is just one of many galaxies that house conscious beings? If so, how will we decide how to show up in the galactic stage? Right now I’d like to imagine that we are being watched and encouraged like young children learning to walk and talk. Once we get a few things straightened out, then maybe we will grow to the point where we will be ready to handle a galactic-sized exchange of ideas. Until then, let’s focus on our personal, local, and global identities with time, space, and respect, as new ideas birth, moving always towards respectful and mutually desirable exchanges with others.

Furthermore, let’s be flexible with our identities. Let’s allow who we are to grow and change and evolve. If you’re having trouble picturing this, look at who you were a year ago. Were you doing the same things? Thinking the same thoughts? Did you act the same way that you do now? If so, maybe you have some growing up to do! If you are acting differently, if you have grown, then acknowledge this growth. Give yourself some credit for how far you’ve come in a year. This isn’t a race, it’s a dance. Let’s move forward lovingly, respectfully, always open to the possibility of exchanging and growing. Even though the ego can get attached to an identity, remember, we are not the ego! Don’t fear the natural crystallization and dissolution of identity cycles. It’s part of the cool, forward-moving experience of being a human being.

 

© Tim Stanek 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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