Start With Love

I love you & and there's nothing you can do about it.

In moments of transition and managing my "messy middle" over the past several years (Brené Brown, Rising Strong), I've created a manifesto for the decade of my forties. I made a distinct decision to teach the profound benefits of setting up a mindfulness practice in your life. As a means to pay closer attention, and unleash your unique (and, oh, so needed) creativity & compassion. 

A mindfulness practice and toolbox makes space for all of it. Sadness, grief, negativity or darkness, and especially, your creativity, compassion, courage, kindness, contribution, and music.

This morning I'm in awe of a divine grace that's pouring into my life, a melody and music that's bigger than me.

I'm head-over-heels in love with creativity and artistic expression. It's changing everything in my life. And I marvel at the projects taking shape and form right before my eyes. Watercolors, sketches, websites, marketing pieces, figure drawing, writing, film making, commissions, collaborations, and the piano. The music (more coming soon for you) ...... Guilty as charged, I confess, I'm an idea addict ..... Thank God I've recently found support for this.

And I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's new book Big Magic: 
(Holy Crap it's good)
My sister & I are going to hear her speak in person on Friday night!

"I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human's efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual."

Spot on Elizabeth Gilbert. Almost perfect. I've only one edit. Am I about to edit this New York Time's best selling author? I think so ..... sure ..... why the hell not? I'm sure she'd encourage it.

I believe ideas are not separate from us, rather, they are God-like, interwoven in the divine fabric of all of us. I need to believe that all the creative ideas swirling around us are connected to a divine power greater than me or you, and available to any one of us for collaboration and exploration. If we are willing to ask and then take action.

And these ideas are magnified when our efforts are fueled with love, kindness, or compassion.

At some point, in your creative process, hopefully, you'll find a courage to set it free. Off it will go into physical form, and you'll allow the art to stand as another child of divine grace. 

I'm so excited to teach you everything I know about collaborating and cooperating with your creativity and "music". It's something magical. It has certainly improved my life, and immune system.

Your mindfulness challenge for today is an invitation to consider losing your conflict with creativity. That's right, you heard me! Drop it, ditch it, flush it, smack it, burn it. It's time to cooperate, and collaborate with creativity! 

Thank you Nikas, for your stunning ideas on conflict and cooperation last night. I'm tickled blue by your grand entrance into my life. And I request many more conversations under blood orange fall moons.

I imagine you, my tribe members, joyfully dancing, this fall and winter, to the rhythm of your heart, cultivating mindfulness, and paying close attention to the possibility of creativity in your life. I smile when you listen to the subtle symphonies within, and bravely share your music with the world.

I'd like to welcome our newest member of Viral Mindfulness Monday, Jillian, from Salt Lake City. It was such an honor to speak with you today, and the other students in your class. Your campus is lucky to have a room filled with sprouting ideas of truth and compassion, and such great wisdom from your instructor Elisa Stone.

I want to share several ideas that I'm absolutely in love with this week.

If I were performing in a drag show ..... I'd want my name to be Alexander-ella.

What if you were wiling to turn your heart over to grace and creativity?

Grow along spiritual lines (The Big Book, AA).

Time passed & pain turned into memory (Disney's live action Cinderella).

Would who she was, who she really was, be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest risk that any of us will ever take. To be seen as we truly are (Disney's live action Cinderella).

We are never prepared for what we expect (James Michener).

From Cheryl Strayed, Wild:

There’s no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another .... what leads to what, what destroys what, what causes what to flourish, or die, or take another course ..... What if I forgive myself? What if I was sorry? But if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do a single thing differently ..... What if I wanted to sleep with every single one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if all those things I did were the things that got me here? What if I never was redeemed? What if I already was?
After I lost myself in the wilderness of my grief, I found my own way out of the woods.
I knew only that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore, that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough, that it was everything. My life, like all lives, irrevocable, sacred. So very close. So very present. So very belonging to me. How wild it was to let it be.

How exciting and wild it's going to be this fall ..... Autumn 2015 ..... as we awaken and unleash your creativity & compassion, and let it be, a wild & transformational color in your life.

PS I'm in love with this watercolor I've started? What do you think I should add to this piece next?

Leave your comments below!



Simply Enough

Aloha Mindful Warriors!

Tomorrow's the final day of Summer 2015. How do you feel about it? (I promise it'll be back in 6 months). Technically summer fades to autumn in the wee small hours of Wednesday morning, September 23, at exactly 1:21 AM.

Were you able to churn summer life into lovely and positive picnic parts? I've loved all the emails, pictures, videos, and poignant thoughts about the power and simplicity of a picnic. I'm also aware some of you are stressed, at major crossroads, and working through significant life events. I send you love and I'm grateful for your presence here at Viral Mindfulness Monday. Know that I mediate in my own practice on your behalf. I'm devoted, and take great stewardship in you, my Monday Tribe! My next gift is coming, an Autumn of Viral Mindfulness vivid in color, idea, creativity, compassion, and art. 

For today, I'd like to summarize the key points of the Summer Picnic challenge and extend the watercolor giveaway into the first 5 days of Autumn. In honor of Brené's featured quote. Simply enough my friends, this means you'll have until Sunday, September 27th to enter the watercolor giveaway. Get your entires in.

Enjoy the Series Two Premier of Viral Mindfulness Monday: Life's A Circus, Let's Play!
The invitation's extended to pay attention to your life. Cultivate the wisdom to listen and observe yourself. And you ..... in your life. It's easier than ever (right at your finger tips), to get wrapped up and distracted in other people's lives. And often, before you realize it, you're eating a double-double comparison burger, I'm-never-going-to be-good-enough-animal-style. This particular order is heavy on the stomach and soul.

Lay It All Down & Picnic introduces Mr. Picnic.
When Mr. Picnic and I said goodbye after 48 hours together, he thanked me for pulling him out of his world. For being kind and present. For touching him and being mindful and direct with my words & in my communication. I sketched and listened and watched him sleep. He told me stories from his life as I watched birds making lazy circles in the sky. We kissed, we laughed, and swam, and enjoyed the sweet flavor and texture of oranges, grapefruit, kettle corn & summer picnics. I'm excited to share the details with you of our intimate conversation under the deep blue summer sky. (He too is HIV-positive, and told me his interesting story).

Alexander TV, Episode 201
Park Your Problems & Picnic: A Viral Mindfulness Monday Picnic Challenge. 
I'm tickled Hello Kitty Pink to introduce you to Ethan, Carter & Faye. The three neighbor kids that inspired my whole idea. Wait till you see the songs they sing, their dance moves & awesome yoga poses.

Alexander TV, Episode 202
Throw A GoPro Picnic ..... Bobble-Head Style
My nephew Zane submitted video to enter the challenge. It just happened to be of me! You're gonna laugh non-stop at this GoPro footage of hilarious picnic fun. (It might be the funniest footage I've seen of myself). It's not bobble-head ..... it's more like an Alexander bobble-body. Get all the details for the challenge in this episode.

What do to do when the picnic's over? Summer comes to an end? Perhaps you're consumed with, The Not So Picnic Parts of Life.
Liz Gilbert offers some life-saving advice in this profound episode.

I want to share a slogan I’ve been chewing on all week. It comes from the fantastic Brené Brown in her new book, Rising Strong:

“The opposite of scarcity is not abundance; the opposite of scarcity is simply enough.”

Initially I applied this to money and salary. How much income, profit or salary is enough? When do I cut myself off from a natural propensity (even addiction) towards achieving more? Getting more and having more runs rampant in our culture.

I've deliberately decided to extend my pose of gratitude by defining enough. For me. I sat down and looked at my salary, expenses, budgets, debt, goals, projects, dreams, plans, vision and bucket list. I then asked myself, Do I have enough? And my answer was clear:

Not yet, but I'm closer than I thought, and can drop much stress today, by focusing on two words ..... simply enough.

With Brene’s slogan I was able to reduce an immediate level of anxiety about my current case load of projects and clients. I found a clear plan of action to complete the current projects, and then focus on new opportunities in the month of October, with clients that support my prices & current level of experience, expertise, and offering.

This was empowering and helpful.

Then I decided to take it to another topic. A really vulnerable one: status single (I'm daring greatly here Brené).

If I’m single and define it as scarcity, then being in a relationship is abundance. Even dating someone regularly is abundant.

How does the simply enough solution work for this equation?

Here was my train of thought.

I’m simply enough right where I am. Do I have a boyfriend? No. Do I have friends and family? Sooooo many and they're awesome! Do I date? I'm totally putting myself out there and having a great time. In fact Mr. Picnic and I had an unbelievable time together, yet he never called me back ..... (and then I had the self revelation that I'm actually Mr. Picnic).

Do I have love in my life? Yes & I'm spreading courage, compassion & creativity! (Bonus Points).

Then it started to get juicy.

Am I broken, damaged or “not enough” because I’m not in a relationship, or raising children? Am I marked and tainted because of my past history with foolish coping strategies (including drugs)? Am I dirty and undesirable with HIV? 

Simply enough. Simply enough. Simply enough.

I recognized and touched the grief, sadness, and loss, at it's root, and knew it was time for this root to die. 

What if I spent the rest of my life "single", would that be simply enough?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Especially on this current path of creativity that I absolutely love! It makes me feel alive and connected to my spirituality ..... even my higher power. She's quite magnificent.

Your mindfulness challenge this week is to wrestle with Brené Brown's awesome slogan. Every time you bump into yourself with a negative thought, whisper: simply enough, simply enough, I am simply enough. If you suddenly fly off the handle with anger, rage or resentment ...... gently repeat, simply enough, simply enough, she's simply enough. 

If you get her book—you're absolutely going to be blown away. Who would've thought she could've outdone Daring Greatly.

She did! (In Valley Girl accent)

All my love to your mindful week!

Alexander

 

The Not So Picnic Parts

Mr. Picnic didn't call :(

and I've honestly never been better :)

I'm too far in my brave journey of self awareness to chase after another unavailable man. With all the death, loss, change, transition, and setback over the past couple years, I’m learning how to let go. And remain flexible as I pose with the inevitability of change.

In the middle of May I broke through a thick ocean of grief and gasped for air. It made sense. I'd been through loss before, and had given myself permission for a not-so-picnic year of grief.

I was in an ocean of despair directly related to several significant men in my life. My best friend moved from California to New York City in early Spring of 2014. My father visited from Ecuador and shared with me the vulnerabilities of aging.

My ex-partner of five years was found dead in his apartment in May 2014 with a variety of substances in his bloodstream, including medications for HIV, Hep C & Bi-Polar. We had been apart several years. He had re-entered his Mormon closest wearing a costume of heterosexuality.

My friend Weston suddenly collapsed the day before Halloween and was rushed into open heart surgery. 

In early Spring of 2015, on the very same day, a great guy I’d been dating broke up with me. And I was turned down for a Ted Talk after the steering committee had pursued me to submit a piece on my experiences with HIV.

A few other dramatic details followed: not-so-smart-ways of numbing my pain, working long days to build a new salary in Orange County, and my doctor noticed an unhealthy spike in my liver function from my HIV meds ….. I sensed an eery familiarity of being at rock bottom. Again. 

This time I knew what needed to be done because I'd done it before.

I sat in front of a mirror and stared myself down. When I saw the bigger part of me looking back I began to sob. I spoke aloud and direct:

"Alexander, what do you need to do?"

I cried and cried and sat in meditative practice with very uncomfortable states of mind, body and emotion. 

Under the enormous pressure and sound of my monkey mind, I heard a subtle sentence: “You need to ask for help." 

From my messy middle I reached up and out.

Charming and serendipitously, right from social media, on that very day, I found a post-like-letter from my favorite Elizabeth Gilbert. It climbed through the noise and pierced my rock bottom with a plan that made perfect sense to me. She’d inspired me before with Eat Pray Love, and now she was sending a life boat from Facebook. Thank you Liz Gilbert!


Dear Ones -

Climb, climb, CLIMB out of that rut!

Do whatever you have to do to get yourself free.

Cut off your hair and braid it into a rope and pull yourself out of that rut by hand if you must...but do not make yourself at home down there in the dark, narrow, trench of sorrow and numbness.

My friend Pastor Rob Bell says that the definition of despair is "the belief that tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today."

Don't fall for that belief.

It doesn't have to be the case.

Three years into my own dark season of depression, I remember thinking, "Maybe this is just my new reality now. Maybe this isn't a 'bad phase' that I'm going through; maybe this is just how it is now, and how it will always be. Maybe this is who I am now — a perpetually sad and aching person, who has no hope. Maybe I need to just accept that realty."

Because nothing seemed to be working

I almost went furniture-shopping, in other words, to decorate my rut.

I almost made that rut my permanent address.

But some other, more stubborn, part of me, was like: "NO. We're getting the hell out of here."

The thing that's tricky about saving your own life is that it doesn't generally happen overnight, and it doesn't happen in one straight line. It's not like you get a little better every single day, in terms that you can measure on a graph. It's more like: two steps forward, one step back, three steps sideways, no steps at all for a month or so, and then finally one more step forward.

Recovery and ascension are a frustratingly slow and jerky process.

But if you keep doing the things that take care of you, the general direction will be upward. It may be slow and twisted, but it will be mostly upward. You will rise. No matter how long it takes.

In my case, the things that took care of me were: therapy, prayer, meditation, exercise, antidepressants, the solace of good friends, the comfort of reading good books, the practice of forgiveness and atonement, exposure to nature, looooooong walks, heart-opening acts of generosity, sometimes awkward attempts at self-compassion, listening to non-sad beautiful music, trying to get perspective on the human condition through philosophical study, trying to distract myself by learning Italian, getting rid of objects that held bad memories, setting boundaries with people who hurt or shamed me, moving to a new place...etc, etc.

It was not one thing that saved me, in the end — but all these many things combined.

That was the complex rope I braided, to pull myself out of the rut.

It was not always easy to do those good things for myself. It is easier to stay numb on the couch, or to cry in bed with the covers over your head, than it is to drag yourself outside for a walk on a sunny day — or to ask a friend or a doctor for help.

But I would make myself do these beneficial things, because somewhere deep inside, I knew that I WAS THE ONLY STEWARD OF THIS TROUBLED SOUL, and that I had to save myself.

Nobody could pull me out of that rut but me.

People could help — and they did help — but I ultimately had to get out of there myself.

Slowly, month by month, year by year — imperceptibly at times — it worked.

Do not make yourself at home in despair, Dear Ones.

Do not give up on loving stewardship of your troubled soul.

Climb, climb, climb.

ONWARD,
LG


I love her statement ..... "Recovery and ascension are a frustratingly slow and jerky process."

I knew how to climb. I was tired. And afraid to rise again and elevate myself from my ashes. My toolbox was full of smart & mindful tools and very dusty.

I wasn’t paying attention, honoring, or acknowleding my messy middle of transition. 

This is always the best place to start. Attend to you, your life, your feelings and recognize your location. Get honest with yourself and drop the blame, judgement, criticism, shame, or guilt. Pick up your tool box, sharpen your pencils and rise! Get to work.

It's time to pay attention. Are you ready to explore with me?

This week your mindfulness challenge is to recognize. And pin point your location emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Write it down. Paint it, share with a friend, draw it in the sand, or put it to music. You could even try talking to yourself in the mirror. And I'm certain your friend would answer a call for support. If everything's great ..... look around, and consider sending a life boat to someone in your arena.

Perhaps you counter balance the challenge to recognize your messy middle, and deliberately throw a picnic for yourself or someone else. It would be a great space to open up and share your truth.

The full-on-summer-picnic challenge officially ends on Tuesday September 22. And I'd love for you to be the owner of the above watercolor, Om-Grown. You still have a week to enter yourself to win. Get all the details & episodes

I finally figured out the biggest secret of all ..... I'm actually Mr. Picnic ..... Shhhhh, don't tell!

May you find great courage and honesty with yourself and others this week.

All my love to your mindful week!

Alexander