“Rather than money, than fame, than love…give me truth.” ~ Thoreau
I woke up this morning and my life clock marked 30.
My first sleep-deprived idea was to pack a small suitcase, get on the first train, move to another country, change my name, change my hair color (or get plastic surgery if needed), and start from scratch. When I don’t know how to deal with life, I hide sometimes. And others, I fight it.
By now, I’m good at both: fighting and disappearing. I’m old enough to be acquainted with life’s darkest and most elevated places, and young enough to take more. But there’s no merit to either, fighting or flying, if they don’t come as a result of one’s deepest truth. When fueled by fear (a.k.a. lies we’ve been forced to believe before our reason kicked in) both responses are cowardly, both are equally wrong.
A true warrior doesn’t feel forced to do either, but moves through and with and for life, like water.
So after I washed my face and considered the costs of running and those of fighting, I decided to do neither and have some juice instead. And I started contemplating a third alternative.
We are a constant process, an event, we’re change.
Our life is the house, the rest are just projections, shadows of the greater structure: even our deepest thoughts, beliefs, you, me and everything and everyone we’ve ever known, are subject to interpretation. All our constructions of reality, all the words and ideas we use to understand the world are fragile and temporary, they are a medium, they’re not the end, but just another way to understand the journey of Us.
As such, our smaller houses, our temporary homes can only be made of cards. And the I-don’t-know is the most powerful ground you could lay your house of cards on. Because it allows you to adapt to any unexpected changes and even to pick up those cards when the smallest, sudden movement, brings down any of your structures.
Loving the questions means to love yourself. You are the biggest question mark the world (your world) has ever known.
I’m embarrassed about what different alien species might think of us from outer space. You know, if they actually watched Human Reality TV on their Martian screens:
“I don’t get this dramatic species, Rango,” says a green-skinned, 2.5 meter tall, half-lizard, half-nymph, flying-lady with robot voice and snake orange eyes. “They go to the bloodiest ends to come up with the most elaborate answers about life, yet they forgot the most basic, liberating act their 5-year olds still practice: the simple art of asking. The wonder, Rango, they have lost the wonder. They love to talk about life, as if this could somehow excuse them from living it.” Rango nods and snorts green cosmic powder.
So here is an exercise we can do together: a tweak to your usual bucket list. Some 30 questions you and I should ask ourselves (hopefully) before we die. Grab your journal. Turn this into a self-inquiry practice. You will be surprised at all the subterranean world that comes out of you. And it might just save your life by bringing it into the right perspective: ahem…yours.
There is no truth other than your truth – as long as you exist. Somebody else’s won’t do. And you know how most doors are opened? Not by struggling to find the right keys. All you have to do is knock.
Today, 30 years after “I” started happening, I’d like to re-evaluate the meaning of life and knock on doors I don’t have a key for. Maybe my higher self will open and we will sit and chat, and in between one aha and another, we’ll have a sip of truth that feels like home.
Warning: You may have already answered or are in the process of answering some of these questions. If so, a bit of repetition will only help you get clearer with yourself. If not, they should be in our elementary school curriculum. But most of us get to 30, 40, 60… or even spend our entire lives as strangers to ourselves. So shall we get re-introduced?
How much have you loved? Count the people. Add it up. When it comes to love, I’ve always felt in red numbers. I’ve been so focused on the minuses — all of them based on the not-enoughness, the virus most of us suffer from, the glass half-empty, the “but” – the “won’t” – the “can’t” – the “don’t” — the “what if.”
So if you’re in red numbers too, let’s put the ball back in our court. How much have you loved? Have you loved even when it hurts, when you can’t, when you shouldn’t, when you wouldn’t, when you didn’t – just because love is a verb, not a noun, and it’s the hardest, most beautiful gift of life? If so, you’re richer than you feel.
What do you love doing that you aren’t doing? Furthermore, how could you get paid for doing what you love? Let’s brainstorm. It’s your right to be alive every second of the day. You’re not supposed to spend 8 hours a day in chains and the remaining 4 getting high on mental and physical distraction in order to cope with the depression of not doing what you should, what you really want, what you need to be doing.
What person or type of person would you choose as a life companion? A witness to your life? Forget the shoulds / the can’ts / the won’ts / the impossibles. Who would you love and who would love you back if you could have a say in it? Because see, your say in this makes all the difference. When you say your dreams out loud, you turn on the engine. It’s like this whole unlived, abundant life is waiting to come rushing out of you and in wishing it — out loud — you open the gates and give it permission to happen.
Where do you want to live? Are you happy with your life where you are? Could you be happier somewhere else? It’s true that you can be home wherever you are. But it’s also true that some places are more in tune with the kind of life that comes bursting out of you. There’s nothing more inspiring and motivating than good company and an environment that reflect and support your mission.
What do you want to accomplish? And most importantly, why — what’s your motivation? Be unrealistic. Life itself is unrealistic. Your very existence is as random, impossible and unrealistic as it gets. Only unrealistic people accomplish extraordinary things.
What do you want to be remembered by? Write it down. This is the man / the woman who _______________. Take your time.
What kind of life would “make you jealous“? And why? If you could start over, what would your life look like, right now? (psst…you can – but shh, don’t let your doubts in on this yet – they’re gonna’ ruin everything).
What adventures do you want to have? Can you list five? Adventures aren’t just for children — or maybe the 10-year old in us never dies. And it’s that inner child that really loves and lives life for what it is: the greatest adventure in the universe.
If you had to add something to humanity, what would your contribution be? List at least one. The world doesn’t owe you. You owe the world. The good news is that whatever the answer to this question, you’ll enjoy doing it. Your mission is encrypted in your blueprint.
What are your ghosts? Your unspoken demons? The stuff you keep in your closet under a lock? What are you most deeply afraid of? Say it out loud. Get real with yourself. It’s how you conquer them.
What are your favorite memories? Can you picture four or five instances in your childhood you are fond of? Do you see a river running through them? What’s that river, that common denominator, the deepest statement about you and life that lies at the core of them? There is usually only one – or two life-altering statements that come up when you dig.
Get to the bottom of it. How can you live from that same belief now? How can you transform your current experiences so they begin with that same idea – that fueled your most cherished childhood memories?
Who do you love the most? What 10 people would you put on a lifeboat in case of a universal tsunami / asteroid / zombie attack or any other realistic end of the world? Make a list. You can have a million friends on Facebook, but at the end of the day, you’re lucky if you can find 10 people you would die for and who would die for you. Email them as soon as you can. Remind them that if the world ends tomorrow, they’d be on your lifeboat.
Truth is…you never know if the world will end tomorrow. At least for you. And human beings are the most forgetful animals. Do you eat, drink and sleep every day? Then love everyday too.
What worries you the most? Why? Worry comes from fear. And most fear is imaginary. Fear of the Thing is not the Thing itself. Learn to distinguish one from the other. It’s as simple as asking Why.
So what are you worried about? List even the most trivial worries, they’re a projection of a deeper fear. And if any of these worries came true, do you think you could survive? And if the answer is No, then all the more reason to enjoy the world before it ends (and not worry about dead or dying ends).
What type of people inspire you and make you come alive? What people — at this point in your life — add to the truest equation of YOU? Reach out to them, get closer, “touch” them, spend time with them, be around them, aliveness is the one virus you always need to catch.
What type of people bring you down and make you hate yourself? Break up with them. Today. It’s not rejection, it’s just selection. Life is short. You can’t invest your love in people who don’t want it and who use it to deplete you.
Love is the most elevated, beautiful transaction between two creatures. But it’s still a transaction. The whole of nature is transaction: a give and take. When one is missing, the cycle is interrupted, the fire swallows all the oxygen and you burn out. We each have a choice – to give and to take love — and whether we are aware of it or not, we choose the people we give to and take from. You are responsible for your heart’s investments.
Who are your mentors? What have they taught you? Can you make a list? If you know them personally, thank them? Writers, thinkers, teachers, people who’ve shown you the way at some point, and the beautiful mystery of life made sense in their hands. Inspiration is contagious. It fuels you up. You owe them a mention on your lips and in your heart; and you must pay it forward and become a way-shower to someone else.
What is your cosmic elevator pitch? Not your job description, not your professional bio, not your resume, not your About page. But if you got in an elevator on a spaceship that tours the galaxy and you could say anything you wanted about yourself, what would you tell your elevator mates?
In short, who are you – raw, unedited, wild, ordinary and extraordinary you? What does it come down to? And why? (Always, that goddamn solid why).
What issues can you help with? We’re in trouble as a planet, as a species, as a global community, and as individuals. It’s not a choice, actually. If you want to live here, you need to pay the toll of helping out, or your so-called-living won’t be more than a selfish idea of living.
Interdependence is the new Independence. In order to make it real, you have to help clean up the mess others have made. Don’t worry, so will others help clean yours. It’s how it goes with humans. They mirror each other, for better or worse.
How can you express yourself creatively? Starting with the belief that we are all creative animals by nature, what’s your medium? Don’t think about profit, think only of how you can recycle your demons and become a channel for truth.
Art (any kind) speaks directly to the heart. It doesn’t go through reason. They are two parallel languages. You need to speak Art if you want to understand Heart. So pick a medium and start practicing.
How do you manage your time? What works for you? If you’re a mess, how can you get it together? Here are some creative tips on productivity. Can you make a schedule, write down your routine (to help you stick to it), come up with a productivity manifesto of some sort?
If you were to leave the world today, what’s your manifesto? What would you tell your children if you were forced to abandon them unexpectedly? Tell them now (even if you don’t have children). You do actually, we’re all inextricably interconnected to each other – in ways beyond our wildest imagination, and every child born on this planet is also a bit yours.
What makes you come alive? What ignites you? What makes you forget time, and space, and love, and food and water and even why – if taken to extreme? As Bukowski put it, “Find out what you love and let it kill you.” (Or resurrect you.)
What are your most painful memories? Are you still replaying them in your mind and using them as an excuse to fuel your fear of getting hurt again? Do you think they might be keeping you from trusting your heart again?
Why do you eat the way you eat and the things you eat? What do you think you should you eat that you’re not eating – and why? What can you put in your body that gives you pleasure and also respects and nourish it? If you don’t know, can you find out? Google it, read books, take a nutrition course, a cooking class, an online support program, hire a health counselor, do whatever it takes to get to know your body’s needs and then give it what it’s really asking for.
Your cells are made from the very food you eat. What you eat is the most important physiological aspect of your aliveness. You can’t honor life through your work, mission, relationships (you name it), if you don’t eat what gives you life.
What ignites your brain? What turns your light bulb on? Can you add more of that to your everyday? Get smarter? Train your brain? Evolve? Don’t waste your precious time on meaningless entertainment that numbs your mind and makes you smaller. It’s later than you think.
What physical exercise makes you sweat it like you mean it and enjoy both, the process and the afterward feeling? If you’re not currently practicing it, can you read more about it, surround yourself with people who practice it, sign up for a class, do whatever will motivate you to practice it?
What does your body need in order to function at its best? Can you make a list of what makes you feel healthiest and function optimally and try to practice it every day? If you’re not sure, start experimenting. Your 100% is just a little higher than your 80% but it makes a lifetime impact.
What feeds your spirit? What gives you goosebumps? What makes you fall down to your knees in awe (and weep)? Is it god? Religion? The universe? Science? Starry nights? Philosophy? Nature? Music? Art? It has to be higher than a person (than you), and surpass your understanding. There is no awe without mystery.
What are you proud of so far? What have you accomplished? Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone who’s done “more” and some who’s done “less.” But what can you, at this point in your life (your circumstances, your reality), give yourself a hug for? Do it.
Fast-forward to your epitaph. What does it say? As a place-holder, let’s paraphrase Jack Kerouac: “They lived and loved and asked, blessed and adventured…and they weren’t sorry.”
Question 31 (I don’t like even numbers): What is the meaning of life?
To sit and have a drink with life, and ask her things, and hear your own heart (usually ignored) echo your larger-than-life answers in your chest? To realize that you’re rich solely because you have a universe inside you, that you can reach at any given moment – a world that will shrink and expand on your command? Yes. That.
There is no meaning outside of You that won’t take Your deepest, greatest truth in consideration. Fuck love, money or fame if they don’t come as a result of your life-driving truth – they’re the roof to your inner house, and to add a roof you must first discover, understand and create that house. And if you don’t know where to start building, just ask.
Life is an endless flow of questions – meaning is always in the making and it is constantly being created as we speak. The ultimate meaning of life then is the One that creates meaning: the traveler (not the journey), the subject (not its objects, ideas, circumstances, possessions), the lover (not the love), the wayseer (not the way), the warrior (not the battle)…
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