I blogged recently about spreading positivity into the world by acknowledging the people around us. This is something we can do even while grumpy; however, if we really want to light up a room we've got to have our lanterns burning bright.
I believe one day science will confirm that on some level everything is waves and vibration. Even we ourselves are a little tiny wiggles in the fabric of the universe. On a micro-level we pulsate differently day to day and moment to moment.
Have you even been in a bar when a fight breaks out? You probably felt something going down moments before you saw a fist thrown. Have you ever been in an emergency where someone succumbed to panic and then it spread like wildfire? Have you ever known someone so charismatic that they immediately warm an environment like a fireplace? These are all dominant vibrations that can change the tune of everything around them.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I can keep mine as buoyant as possible. Here is what I've come up with. I am by no means a master of any, but I'm trying. If you have other suggestions, I'd love to see them in the comments.
Exercise & Play
I like to do something physical everyday. Merging elements of play into my workouts keeps my childlike nature alive, which I hope to maintain till the grave.
There is more than one way to bake a cake but I sort my workouts into three categories:
1. Weights: Lifting iron keeps your muscles strong and bones dense. It cajoles your body into producing testosterone. A strong body is less likely to be injured. I recommend lifts that engage several muscles like squats (ass to grass), clean&jerks, and bench press. Pull-ups, rope-climbs, or something of this variety is also important for an adventurous lifestyle. Ease into it and make sure your technique is proper.
2. Stamina: A stiff hike, run, bike ride, or swim.
3. Dynamic: Activities that blend reaction time, coordination, technique, and balance. Most sports do the trick.
Don't Expect Purchases to Make you Happy
You see this leaping 2001 Subaru Forester? I bought it 7 years ago for 4,000$ cash. It's seen more adventure than 95% of the SUVs in Los Angeles at a fraction of the cost. I didn't buy it to make myself happy. I bought it as a tool to create experiences that would make me happy (like backcountry camping with friends). Although the passenger side mirror is now taped on and it's scraped up good, it still serves its purpose. Every now and then I catch myself ogling at the newest vehicles on the market, but then I'll remind myself to only buy one when I need it. The mindless craving to buy stuff we really don't need is the persuasive pull of marketing.
Arthur Jeon correctly points out, "We are swimming in commercialism.... it saps our freedom and increases our sense of an isolated identity. Our sense of self becomes, without our permission, defined by our possessions; we judge and parse each other in this paradigm, and in doing so we travel farther from the recognition of our connection to each other."
Manage all Expectations
Denmark regularly tops the list of happiest citizens. One key reason: Low expectations. How many times have I sabotaged a travel destination by imagining the ideal version of the place before I arrive. I picture myself walking with a lover in Hawaii... sunny and warm with the soft sound of ukulele floating on a tropical breeze, but then get crushed by blasting wind and pelting rain.
Recently I've adopted some stoic philosophy into my mindset. Seneca and Marcus Aurelius mastered the comprehension of "It is what it is." That's not to say we don't try to right wrongs and challenge injustice, but rather we understand when something is completely out of our control (e.g., rain in Hawaii). Instead of brooding or bitching you work within the undeniable reality.
We can apply this principle to people as well. Again, I try to be courageous and assertive in the face of bad behavior, but consider if it's malleable. Some people will always be late, always worry, always be messy, etc. You can avoid them, but you can't change them. Getting angry about it is as logical as cursing at the rain in Hawaii.
Consider all the rage on the highways in Los Angeles. Is this not partially because we expect to cruise straight to our destination? There will always be that slow guy in the left lane, that dude who cuts in front of you, the hesitant driver, and the person who blasts their horn in anger. It's much more bankable that the rain in Hawaii. It's a force of nature. Let it rage around you like a typhoon, but don't let it snatch your inner peace. We must respect the inherent danger of a storm, but pointing your finger at the clouds and screaming obscenities is the behavior of a lunatic.
Meditation & Meditative Practices
Meditation is a "spiritual" practice that now has the full blessing of legit science behind it. I remember the first time I managed to be totally present. The sensation was like a mind altering drug. Suddenly I was just consciousness in a room, fully aware of everything which was presently around me. It was akin to the refrigerator stopping to reveal an unperceived layer of silence. That humming is our thoughts which ceaselessly carry our awareness from one moment to the next. Set your timer and try thinking of nothing for five minutes. You will quickly realize how the kingdom of your mind is in complete mutiny.
The principles of meditation are easy to describe, but if you'd like and intro book I suggest Waking Up and Wherever You Go There You Are.
A practice such as Yoga is not only great for flexibility and strength but often entwined with mindfulness, so you benefit both in the body and brain.
Nothing resets me like a night in the forest, mountains, or desert. All my big city concerns diminish and the lens opens wide on my perspective of life. I'm now committed to camping once a month and doing weekly hikes.
Cultivate Strong Friendships
Social media does not meet our ancestral need to have a tribe. Cultivate yours wisely. I like invest in people who are honest, fun-loving, compassionate, and introspective. The best way to find the right friends is to be genuine. When you broadcast on your true channel your people will tune in. When you've found your tribe you must invest time and energy into bringing that group together and sharing experiences that will bond you. Consider selecting a place where you will live not for the salary, views, or prestige; but rather as a spot where friends will gravitate. Give your friends your loyalty and trust. Listen to them when they speak. Help them when they are in need. Counsel them when they are in error or uncertainty.
One of the most influential people in my life was a guy I knew for less than 2 minutes. Compared to other stories I have this will seem super mundane, but stick with me... that's kind of the point.
I was working as a grocery bagger for Thompson's Food Basket in Peoria, IL. One day I manned the register and soon got into the flow of quickly handling customers.
"Hey how's it going," I'd say perfunctorily.
Bleep Bleep Bleep. I'd scan their items.
"That'll be 45.60$"
"Thanks. Have a nice day."
Over and over I'd run them through like a blur. I was a young man being assimilated into the machine of the modern, busy world where we plow through our day mainly lost in our heads. Strangers around us interpreted as either obstacles or gatekeepers.
The next customer came up.
"Hey how's it going?" I said not looking up as I reached for his items.
"Good man. How are you," this shapeless customer replied.
"Good," I said as I begin to scan. Bleep bleep bleep.
"No man," He said with authority, "how's it going?"
I lifted my gaze up as if broken from a daydream to see a man in the prime of his life. He was handsome, fit, and had all his attention focused upon me. He was radiating a positive energy. He seemed to genuinely be inquiring about my state without any kind of agenda.
"Oh... I guess I'm good," I stammered.
"Right on," replied the guy with a warm smile, still looking at me.
We finished the transaction and he went his way. Never saw the guy again. That's my story.
This happened over 20 years ago and I still remember it clear as day. Why? Cause a super cool Brad Pitt type of dude gave me all his attention for a minute. He acknowledged me: a shy, skinny, socially awkward 16 year old who still hadn't kissed a girl. For a moment I wasn't just a bumbling kid that handled groceries for minimum wage. I was a bro.
Think about this: Who was the Elvis of the Mayan Empire? Who was the Michael Jordan athlete of the Mycenaeans? Who was the legendary hunter of the Apache or the beauty queen of the Han dynasty? Surely these personalities burned legendary at one point, but they are all forgotten now, just as this anonymous cool guy is nameless. He could very well be dead. His ego, just like that of all the Incan emperors you can't remember, has crumbled to dust; but the waves of energy he pushed out into the world live on. Because of him I try (though often fail) to take a beat and acknowledge the people around me. Because of him I'm writing this post.
I used to imagine one day I'd maybe change the world in a monumentally positive way, like Hellen Keller or Abraham Lincoln, and perhaps I still might. But I strongly believe our real contribution occurs this day, when you walk out your door to grab a coffee, take the subway, or buy your groceries. What kind of waves of energy are you pushing out into the world? Let me encourage you to jump on the vibration of that nameless cool cat of Peoria, IL. Take a moment to acknowledge people. Pour a few seconds of all your attention into little genuine gesture of "I see you" or "I get you." It could be the brightest spot in that person's day, and just maybe they'll remember it, and emulate it, decades later.
I'm Jonathan Legg
The road has been my greatest teacher.. challenging stagnant beliefs, disarming prejudices, and developing understanding of others. I hope the content on this blog will bring a sliver of that juju to you.