Marketing Art

The reason why you are struggling in your dream is not because of external forces. It’s because of a simple, logical one word answer: you. You lack marketing. You’re not marketing yourself – to yourself. How you speak and how you interact with the world is your brand, and your number one customer is you. Everyone else will follow your lead.

Coke does not tell you that they can clean a toilet bowl with their product. It’s true, but they don’t advertise that. They make you lick your lips when they talk about how badly you want that Coke and how much better you feel. They do not tell you how much sugar or calories it contains.

Are you following me? If you are advertising this shit to yourself, you will not hire yourself, you will not purchase from yourself, you will not read your poem, blog, article, buy a painting, get a tarot reading. Why would you? Why would they.

Marketing is strategic and logical. It is the left side of the brain and usually the weaker side of the brain in artists especially because they are right brained. Without marketing: internally and externally, you will not find a consumer. Research the law of 7s in marketing. Email lists, social media, everything is crucial, but finding your niche and finding your message is marketing. And you must market your art. You must network. You must be the CEO of your art. It’s balance. It’s analytical and strategic.

But it’s worthless if you don’t do it on yourself first.

Contact me if you’d like to discuss ways to better market your art, if this is of interest.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook, Blog page, I’m @mahbuttitches on Instagram and @ourbeautifullie on twitter. Let’s connect!!

❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

What Doesn’t Kill You…

(From my Facebook)

Truer now than ever. I think the key to happiness is just being your fucking self. Good, Bad, ugly. It’s in the shadows of yourself you find unconditional love. Carl Jung taught me what I dislike in another is what I dislike in me. Weakness and vulnerability were two traits I detested. I fought everything about myself to the point I lost myself. All because I didn’t want to ask for help.

The second I finally started realizing I can’t do this alone is the second everything changed, but I had to damn near kill myself quite a few times to learn that lesson. I’m proud of my scars. I survived my own self destruction more

Times then I can count. Now they remind me

to love. Always always always find love.

What doesn’t kill you makes you compassionate. What doesn’t kill you makes you a shoulder for another. What doesn’t kill you makes you see the power in vulnerability and authenticity. Vulnerability and authenticity are strength. What doesn’t kill you makes you wiser. What destroys you makes you wiser. The things you never thought you could get through make you wiser. There is no greater strength than wisdom. Smiling and saying I’m fine as you kill yourself inside is weakness. We gotta change these narratives and lies we tell ourselves.

Ask. For. Help. If you think it’s not okay, it’s not okay. When you start talking, the conversation can finally change. ❤️

Would Buddha Take Medication?

This has been a question I’ve been ruminating on for well over a year. I am curious if there are others in a similar spot: for me, my alphabet soup of diagnoses led me to spirituality as did working through various addictions. Yet, I’ve found myself in a conundrum of: can I be spiritual and take medicine? Would Buddha have popped pills?

I began studying Buddhism when I realized modern psychology is basically renamed Buddhism. I figured I’d just go to the source. Buddhism is not a religion; it is a philosophy. The focus is disciplining the mind.

When I started meditating, I lived in fear of my mind. It was noisy, chaotic, nasty, and full of should have/would have/could have. I had always felt there were at least 2 me’s in existence. The mask and the fucked up girl behind the mask. When I came to meditation, my life had become a confusing blur of lies. I didn’t know who I was anymore because I lost track of the lies and reality.

In this journey, I’ve flip flopped between believing I am seriously ill and in need of help and believing there is nothing wrong with me, it is society making me sick.

The psychosis I had over a year ago was the great leveler. In that, I am forced to accept both answers to every question. There are things I saw and experienced that are so real to me even today, I shudder at the memory. Yet, no one else saw or heard these things. No one saw melting faces, or had any reason to believe the weird weather was all my fault. I can’t find the things I read anymore, yet I swear I read them. It’s a case of accepting what is: I cannot explain this, but it happened all the same.

The harder thing to accept is this absolutely started with meditation. I experienced something that I can not describe in words, and from that point on, my life was turned upside down. I did believe I was God, so it could be full delusional grandeur and mania. I also believed I was here to help people, and that too could be mania. I don’t know. The problem and solution always is: I don’t know. I’ve researched it endlessly. Kundalini awakenings resonate with what happened to me. Jung’s concept of the shadow is almost a verbatim account of the 3 or so weeks I was in psychosis. Everything, and I mean everything I was afraid of, worried about, hiding away, etc. came into my reality. It was as if my life was a Stephen King novel.

I still struggle talking about this, because I couldn’t write out everything that happened in those weeks if I had a lifetime to type. If I can one day, it will give Mr. King a run for his money.

After begging to be taken to the mental hospital, knowing if I didn’t go, I was going to kill myself: I’m still left with fear. There’s still a part of me worried I was wrong. On bad days of depression, I can worry I should have killed myself then, because at the time, I was convinced someone was going to kill my kids if I didn’t kill myself. I’ve never been more terrified of my mind. Yet, I had two choices, I could either get back on good terms with myself, or spend the rest of my days terrified of me as I had been.

It took me a long time to come back to meditation. Buddhism obviously teaches meditation, but I learned in the mental hospital. No one told me about needing a guide or a teacher. No one told me what meditation could unlock. The experience I had is very similar to what has been described as Kundalini awakenings, and there are warnings abound that this should not be undertaken without serious inner work to clear your demons. Me? I was obsessed with meditating because it made me feel good. I didn’t really know chakras or anything spiritual then.

Was it spiritual? Was it psychological? Those questions have plagued me for so long.

In reality, the only thing that did happen is all my worst fears did come true, and all the things I repressed came to the surface. I was terrified I was crazy, so I went crazy. I lost my mind. It doesn’t matter what was real or not real, because in my world, it was all true. In others, it was not. For me, I created a self fulfilling prophecy. I believed I was crazy, so crazy is what I was.

This is the nature of life. My truth is something only I have. No one sees the sky the same way, and we have no way of proving or disproving it because we can’t describe blue. This leads me back to my question. The Buddha taught how to discipline the mind to alleviate suffering. I believe he used the complete power of his focus, by watching his thoughts and choosing where he gave his focus.

The Buddha believed all suffering exists in our minds. We cling to the past and reject change, we chase the future and lose the present. We create huge expectations to bring disappointment. We live in extremes and reject reality. I have to wonder, though, how would Buddha deal with now? Look at the world we are in. He’s long gone, and many follow his way, yet does it resonate now? Ancient wisdom is wise, but does it make sense in a culture so vastly different? Would he need Effexor and Latuda to stay centered?

The world is so obsessed with labels and words. Everything has to be specifically characterized and in a box – we’ve turned ourselves into nouns and forms of grammar instead of living breathing constantly changing verbs. God is now an iPhone, I think. It’s very different from a monastic lifestyle in India. In the present, I think suffering is caused by our obsession with the word “or”. My suffering with the puzzle of my psychosis is an easy example of this. The reality is “and” not “or”. That is to say, everything I experienced was completely real, completely caused by meditation, AND bipolar. Why must they be mutually exclusive? Does mania make it false? I used to believe mania made my happiness a lie, and I would use analysis to rob myself of joy with the fear of being crazy.

In reality, to me, bipolar is a description of a particular form of suffering: attachment versus non attachment. I flee the bad days and run for the good days. Medication has helped, meditation helped, yoga helped. I don’t fear my bad days, and I enjoy the good days as they last. Non attachment.

The psychosis is forcing me to accept “and” because it’s the only plausible answer. It’s all of the above. Yet, strikingly, this is precisely what the Buddha taught in non duality. Everything in this life is a process. Sadness is necessary so that happiness is experienced. Rainy days are needed to grow flowers in the sunshine. All of the cliches. But it is truly everything. All the mental anguish I go through attempting to pick a side can easily be avoided by accepting both and sticking to the middle. Any extreme is bad for our minds. Moderation is key in everything.

If you can think about the most painful situation in your life, I am willing to bet there is an “or” you are struggling with. “Did he cheat on me because I wasn’t good enough or is he a shitty person?” Both. It’s both. He believed you weren’t good enough and that does make him a shitty person. It can be everything because it’s all part of one unified process. It’s up to us to decide and move forward. Obsessing with the why, and trying to label it disconnects us from reality and keeps us in fear of the unknown. The reality is: it is all unknown and known. Every moment is exactly as it’s meant to be, and suffering comes from constant ruminating and questioning thoughts. The only reality is action.

The rising diagnoses seem to flag this problem. As we all attempt to force ourselves in one particular box at the loss of another, trying to encapsulate ourselves in neat words and labels, we are losing our minds. Our sanity. Our obsession with words and thinking is making us insane.

Isn’t it interesting that modern psychology and Buddhism are so closely aligned? Why is meditation so crucial? Why did meditation help me go crazy? I appreciate it now, because now I have the opposite – I know what it feels like to lose my mind. I no longer need to analyze myself for crazy indicators.

Meditation is the art of doing nothing, because we all do too much. It is rare we have that counter balance. Like pushing do not disturb on a cell phone, meditation can create the space for truth and reality to shine through. The truth that we always need both. We need activity and we need stillness. We cannot be healthy in any one or the other situation.

What is the truth? What is reality? I don’t know anymore. I think that’s the most truthful I can get. This journey started whether I wanted to or not, but I’ve been holding myself back by shifting my fear to medication. I finally connected I’ve been so stifled in everything because I’m terrified the medicine I am on is changing my brain.

When I started meditating, I saw colors. So many colors. It was like hanging out in a kaleidoscope. Now, I can tell you this is called a siddhi and means very little. Since I started the medicine, I stopped seeing colors. I’ve been worried about this for so long. Yet just last night, I asked that question: if Buddha was here now, would he take medicine to help with the journey?

The answer is: why do I care what Buddha would do? This is what I keep missing. At the end of the day, it’s only me that can move my feet on this path. Buddha may be a guide, Watts may be a guide, but I’m the only one who can choose. If I believe the medicine is hurting me, of course it will. Self fulfilling prophecies are reality. I take supplements and I take medicine. Why not both? Both help me. I have a stigma against myself with the medicine, and I’m tired of bullying me about it.

No sooner did I come to peace with this – after 1.5 years of struggling and fighting with this choice to medicate, I saw colors again. Brighter and more vivid then I remember before.

The Buddha taught me to stop fearing my mind by embracing the beauty of my mind. Meditation taught me how powerful all minds are. They can create beauty or suffering, depending on your focus. In each of us is this power to create or destroy our worlds. Most of us need to destroy before we learn to stop creating our destruction with the stories we tell ourselves.

Are you pondering similar questions? Let me know in comments, I’d love to pick some brains.

If there’s no solution, it’s not a problem.

The hardest part of any challenge is thinking about it. The way I see it, inside my mind is very small relative to the world. The world is expansive and limitless, but my skull isn’t. When I get caught in ruminating or anxious repetitive thoughts, it can feel like a cacophony in my head. And whatever problem

Seems so insurmountable, and I couldn’t possibly handle it.

The simple act of writing it on paper, saying it out loud, or just tackling the problem inevitably shows my problem was far bigger in my head than reality. The mind creates the problem, action always diminishes problems. Sometimes, I make a list of what I’m

Anxious about and I pick “low hanging fruit” i.e. the easiest thing I can do to handle something. And I work my way through it.

The most powerful thing I learned with my psychosis came from a random encounter:

If you don’t have a solution, then it is not a problem. Later, I found a Buddhist quote: “why worry? If you don’t have an answer; you cannot solve the problem, and if you do have an answer; your problem is solved!”

My mind loves to say can’t. I can’t handle this that or the other thing. I used to try to change it to can. The problem with can is, it’s still future state. I will and I am are much more effective in retraining the brain. I will do this, I am doing this. Your mind calms and becomes focused on the present as opposed to dancing in future and past.

But at the end of the day, suffering comes from thinking about problems. Life comes in action. Life, experience, love, God, and humans. We are all actions, not nouns. We are beyond words, so don’t let the words in your thoughts control your limitless potential. I will. I am. The two things to change your life.

Shades of Truth

Words are weapons

Words are tools

Like chains of infinity

Like sun to the moon

Black and white runs us blind

Up vs down controls the mind

We’re baby birds flying

No wings, we’ve crashed

The power within disposed like trash

Our eyes see blindly

Wont reflect on the mirror

We think up obstacles

In place of what’s clear

Words now weapons

Praise the new God of Fear

Have you ever felt deeply

This must not be me?

Have you ever questioned reality?

Do darkness and demons sneak ’round every corner?

Temptation, addiction crush your own willpower?

Why are tears so easy, but smiles hard won?

Is it truly so crazy to look at the son?

Did you ever look at the sky and see

the beautiful painting God made for me?

The me is you and you is we

Connected together in gravity

The blue, those clouds,

They’re yours, they’re mine

Breathe in and out, love is divine

Everything, everything is won with us

Yet we only see what mind thinks is best

We’re tied in shoelaces

We’re chained by a feather

There’s nothing to fear,

Our guards aren’t that clever

Just look at the sky and remember you’re soul

Embrace your own heart

Express your soul

Just look at the sky and remember this well

The best days here are the worst days in hell

God painted the sky just for you

God sparkles the grass with tears of dew

Every color you see is how you perceive it

We’ve outgrown this nest

When will you leave it?


I actually wrote this with a song playing, check it out and see if it adds to the poetry. Escape Route

Check out my other poem, also produced by 33 pyramids China white

On This Day…

I met my husband 17 years ago today. It was Ozzfest in Camden, NJ. I was with my best friend, and we were the furthest thing from sober. We watched a morbidly obese Samoan gentleman annihilate the mosh pit with a shopping cart, I waited around to get Dave Draiman to sign my chest, and the late Dave Williams to sign my ticket stub. It was the best day of my life, and it only got better.

I bumped into a friend, and he introduced me to the dude who would be my hubby 5 years later. As a natural seductress – smooth like chunky peanut butter – I offered the (as I described) hottest dude I’ve ever seen my soft pretzel and pointed repeatedly at my chest babbling about Dave Draiman. This clearly had an impact on him, because I didn’t see him for a year, though I talked about him off and on.

I never in a million years would have thought this random encounter would be a milestone in my meandering river of life, but hot dude at concert is now hot dude who fathered my children and is my best friend and husband.

I wouldn’t see him again until a random coincidence had me invited to his Fourth of July party where I was 8 months pregnant and in the adoption process for the baby. When I saw him again, I tried to get his attention by awkwardly attempting small talk and commenting on how nice his air conditioner felt.

Clearly, my feminine wiles had a dramatic impact on him, because we finally started dating a few weeks after my first child was born. I’m sure many successful relationships start with a woman meandering the adoption process and healing from labor. I’m sure Lifetime has these movies all the time. It probably appeared weird to a lot of people, and clearly my emotions were a train wreck, but I had said on our wedding day: my husband was a gift from God to help me through the darkest days of my life.

I remember those weeks after she was born so vividly. I barely spoke and chain-smoked on my parents’ deck, staring at the sky praying the clouds would give me an answer. When I gave birth, I had the option to see or not see the baby. I spent every minute in the hospital with her. At 19, I had a surprisingly level head with this. I knew I had to let myself fall in love with her to know if I was strong enough to say goodbye. The weeks after she was born and before he randomly popped back in my life, I was staring at those clouds trying to decide if I was strong enough to say goodbye.

He and I started dating September 2. She was born August 12. Just days before, I had called the adoption agency and confirmed my decision to proceed. My reasoning was as painful as it was logical. My daughter deserves more than I could give her at this time. I wanted her to have a mother and father, and I did not want to have her struggle as I tried to care for us, finish my education, and start a career. I knew her father and I were not capable of that relationship, nor could I alone give her a life even comparable to my childhood. Every parent wants the best for their child, and I knew I did not have that.

The pain of this decision and experience taught me the first big lesson of love – one so many overlook – letting go. Of course my love for her is the love of a mom, but love is not always easy or perfect. Sometimes, the most love you can give is to say goodbye. To make the choice for something better for the one you love. It was a lesson I got beat over the head as a reminder of when my husband and I finally let each other go after trying to reconcile and heal so many times.

After I decided to proceed with the adoption, I randomly crossed paths with him, and I started smiling, laughing, and talking again. From the get go, I was open and honest with everything I was going through. I trusted him completely, and he became my best friend immediately. It always felt, to me, like I had known him all my life. I remember telling him how safe and happy I felt in his arms. Like all my troubles couldn’t touch me when I nuzzled on his chest. I always loved how perfectly I fit under his arm. I’m 5’5″ and he’s 6’1″. My ear sits on his heart when we hug.

There’s more to this story than a long soliloquy of a chance metalhead encounter becoming the weirdest love story ever. I mean, flash forward 17 years, and we’re back together after a 3 year separation after years of a toxic marriage.

This story is where I first really started seeing God/the universe/Tao/insert word here in my life. It’s simple, so simple I could have just as easily overlooked it, because the past is just a story we tell ourselves now. I could change the words and have an equally accurate representation of my life but it would be full of negatives and pity me bullshit. It doesn’t matter. The past is only useful if you allow it to elucidate your present and make a choice to see the beauty repeat in your life.

I would have never met my husband if I hadn’t dated my daughter’s father. It was his friend I went to say hi to. I would have never known these people otherwise. I was 19 when she was born. It’s been almost 16 years now of me fucking my life up in new inventive ways, then cleaning my mess up in other equally inventive ways. At the time, it was the most pain I had ever known, and he was the person by my side making me smile. It taught me pain leads to beauty. Suffering teaches happiness. It taught me hope. Looking back now, it was the first time I really had to trust everything happens for a reason and let it be at that.

I get why people can feel punished by life or God. There’s so many reasons to be miserable about suffering. In the moments, pain can seem like there’s all there is to life. It can seem pointless and hopeless. This all taught me to hold on. All these years later, I have the words to put to this lesson: I am not in charge of my life. What I can say is “bad” has always ultimately led to what I can say is “good”. That helps me to stop lingering or trying to escape the bad. It helps me to accept life as it is. To get so worked up in labeling life and experience is like crying about arithmetic in school. Everything in life is a lesson. Everyone is a teacher.

My husband, over the 17 years we have been in each other’s lives, taught me unconditional love. He taught me by making me a mother to our three kids, when I forgave him and he forgave me after we both committed “unforgivable” sins against each other, and by always accepting me exactly as I was – which is quite often unstable at best – as I describe myself. Through my love for him, I learned my purpose – everyone’s purpose – on this green and blue orb. It’s love. Love isn’t always soft pretzels and air conditioning. Love is fighting, forgiving, and being human. Mistakes and accomplishments are equal in the eyes of love.

This is why duality is so harmful for all of our minds. It causes us to label love and forget the nature of love. If love and forgiveness are placed as synonyms, there can be no true bad or true good with love. If your child fucks up, you don’t stop loving them. If anything, you offer more love. There’s nothing that cannot be forgiven with love, and if that’s the case, everything in life simply brings you closer to love. Love for yourself, love for others. Compassion with the knowledge of your own personal stumbles to make you less judgmental of others. The same is true of the whole spectrum of life. Everything is a lesson in love to show us all there’s never any bad, there’s nothing to actually fear, because you will always end up exactly where you were meant to be.

I knew 17 years ago when I looked in that man’s eyes that I wanted him in my life. I could not have expected he would become the love of my life and my partner in crime forever, and I’m glad for it.

The best part of life are the surprise endings you can never see coming. It’s the best love story of them all, because if you really can trust the process of your life: it is a love story written personally to and for you from God (or whoever resonates – love doesn’t get hung up on labels).

And to my partner in crime, thank you for helping me be the woman I am today. Our love for each other and our children taught me love for myself. Our love has saved my life countless times. Our love has superseded and risen above pain and misery that made this story seem like a cakewalk. You are the sun to my moon, and the sexiest man at Ozzfest. I love you.

Featured Image Credit

I Cannot Worry About The Future if I Am Experiencing My Present

Right now I’m reminding myself frequently: I cannot worry about the future if I am experiencing my present.

That does not mean I don’t have thoughts or worries about the future. It simply means I redirect my focus to the present. In the mental hospital, I was taught a grounding exercise: identify things through the five senses. What do I see? Hear? Smell? Taste? Feel?

Not surprisingly, there are many types of meditation that teach this presence and mindfulness is taught as a way to connect with now.

I also learned positive affirmations in the mental hospital and from my psychologist. This is very similar to a powerful invocation called the Sankalpa, or your heart’s desire. You meditate quietly for a few moments, then allow something you want to arise from a place that transcends your thinking mind.

In any of these practices: grounding, mantra, Sankalpa, mindfulness, meditation, etc. gratitude is fundamental to reaching these states. Gratitude is a place that transcends the ego, the anxiety, and the depression because it places power outside of your thinking mind. If a few moments are taken to see and appreciate everything – good and bad – by acknowledging everything has happened to bring this moment, the ego becomes quiet, confused, and powerless. Gratitude helps with acceptance too. In my journey, being thankful for being bipolar taught me to stop fighting being bipolar. In any situation, I guide my focus to gratitude. Even the worst situations, I can still be thankful I’m breathing.

Once gratitude helps center, I can “hear myself think” better. This is when positive affirmation or Sankalpa helps. It’s a statement in the present of something you wish to accomplish. My first Sankalpa was “I am peaceful, loving, trusting whenever I am confused or upset” this arose as a need for me to shift because as soon as my moods did what my moods do, or depression made me feel worthless, etc. I question every decision I’ve ever made, doubt myself, and worry about my entire journey.

Pretty quickly, I saw this shift. I couldn’t say how specifically, but I started listening to myself and trusting myself more. I recited the Sankalpa after connecting with gratitude and repeated it three times. I also recited it before meditating and bed.

Right now, my Sankalpa is “I am love”. This has led me to stop getting into my head about the future and experience the present instead. Love is action, not a noun. It’s a dynamic, ever changing energy. Love is not clinging or fear, so worrying about the future is the opposite of love.

If these practices are of interest, hop on YouTube. There are guided meditations to set a Sankalpa, to connect with mindfulness, and gratitude practices. I do general searches and just pick whatever I feel pulled to pick. This helps to connect with intuition too. If the spirituality side of things feels weird, check out positive affirmations and I Am statements, mindfulness exercises for depression or anxiety, and try journaling 3 gratitudes daily. It’s the same, just different words and more or less talk of God.

Do things that resonate with you and you alone. Never force a practice that doesn’t resonate or force yourself to do anything a certain way because someone else does it. All the self help books, guides and all this have good intentions, but each of us walks differently with different feet, shoes, and baggage. Meet yourself where you are at and with what you want, and find the resources that support and work for you. At the end of the day, being in your life and experiencing your life now is what is important. Not the past, not the future.

Me vs. me

The most frustrating aspect of bipolar or mood disorders (including ADHD) is there are essentially at least two diametrically opposed personalities in your life. There’s the person who can handle it and the one who can’t. They’re both you, it’s not multiple personality disorder, but one you is on the ball and trying to improve and the other you is overwhelmed, anxious, and wondering how the hell to get half of what was done before done now.

This has been an ongoing battle in my life. When things are good, I’m on the ball, organized, house clean, and dotting all my lower case j’s. When things are not, I don’t even know where to start. I call it going down holes. It’s frustrating because as far as I can go up is as far as I can go down. Most of this year has been me trying to teach myself baseline. An area where I can manage and cope without too much pressure either way. Things that are easy on good weeks are difficult on not good weeks. I make commitments on good weeks that are impossible on bad. And then I have to dig myself out of the holes my moods can go to.

Buddhism taught me impermanence and to relieve myself of expectations. The largest part of my suffering was in comparing myself to myself and to others. I am not the person I was five minutes ago, let alone last week. This frees me to just do my best every day. It doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do previously. It’s also okay to be overwhelmed, because I have a lot going on. Carving time to meditate creates space to just be and allow myself to be however I am without fixing me.

I am not my house or my to do list. Some days, I just need to cope with my Newtonian moods watching me go up and inevitably come down. Ram Dass said his stroke is a grace from God, because he finally learned to ask and receive help. He is paralyzed on his left side saying this is grace. I’ve been pondering his beautiful words for a month, and I agree.

Bipolar is my grace from God. If I had not gone into full blown psychosis, I would never have started asking for help. If I hadn’t started seeing my mood swings, irritability, and suffering, I would never have turned to Buddhism for help. I would have followed the path others laid for me, and never become me. I would have never accepted me. I would never have expressed me. I look at the weeks I go down in the hole as me just needing rest. Does it suck to have to dig out and try to get back to baseline? Sure. But I have a baseline now. I know when I’m off, and I know what to do when I’m off.

And I know how to ask for help now. I’m not ashamed for needing help. I am not ashamed that I can’t do it all. I’m not ashamed of myself. None of this would be possible without the grace of bipolar. My creativity, problem solving, personality, empathy, and compassion all come from being “batshit crazy” as I called myself before. There are kind of two or more me’s in here, and at least we’re all playing nicer in the sandbox. Even if I gotta pick up my slack sometimes.

I believe our greatest challenges are our greatest strengths. This becomes apparent when we stop fighting with ourselves and love the good, bad, ugly, and all in between.

Pay Attention

Do you know what your greatest gift, asset, tool, etc. is? Do you know the most powerful part of you? Do you know the one part of you, that if you use it wisely, it will change your life?

It is your focus.

Focus is something most of us struggle with immensely. The climbing rates of ADHD diagnosis in adults and children are testament to our struggles with the power of focus. Most of us pride ourselves on our abilities to multitask, but the reality is multitasking, over-committing, and generally being too busy is one of the biggest reasons we are miserable. (No shit Sherlock). The reason, though, isn’t because we are tired or stressed. It’s because we are maligning our greatest and most powerful gift.

Take a moment and think of people you deem wildly successful, the people you wonder how they did it, or what their secret is. There’s a common denominator: focus. Take a musician: they focused on their gift and passion until it became their reality. They don’t just work in music, they live music. They tour, write, perform, and embody music. How did they get there? “I never gave up, I never stopped believing in myself, I practiced every day…”

Most of us dismiss them as “lucky” or how we can’t possibly do that because “here in the real world…” However, we overlook the simple trick they use that can change everything for us: focus.

Do you fixate on things? Do you ever wonder why sometimes you just want to do the same thing, and other weeks it barely crosses your mind? Do you have interests that you want to incorporate in your life, but you can never seem to find the time?

These fixations are your inner compass, and they are a blessing, a gift, and guidance. Call it God, your higher self, intuition, the Holy Spirit, or channeling divinity. I don’t care. What your fixation or focus is trying to help you with is what you need to do to help yourself to be happy and fulfilled.

When we multitask and overwhelm ourselves, we erode our powerful focus, and like a muscle, lack of use creates weakness and lack of results. Our society loves to erode our focus. How many times do we check Facebook or even just our phones in a day? How many times can you say, “I just did one thing for like an hour.” When you go to work, how many things are you doing at once to be productive. Are you actually productive? How is your energy?

Have you ever watched a kid actually playing? Not video games, I’m talking driving a car on a floor, building a puzzle, or taking Barbie on a date with Ken? The outside world doesn’t exist to these kids. As a matter of fact, the kid doesn’t exist to the kid. There’s no mental observer, “I am making Barbie perfect, but up next I really must see about my muffins in the oven and good God that laundry!” It just doesn’t happen. They’re focused and immersed, which means they, and all their problems (kids have problems too) don’t exist.

What happens then? They’re happier! Have you ever dealt with an overstimulated kid? It’s fucking hell! My kids are constantly overstimulated, then they overstimulate me, and I want to go weep under a blanket for a month, pondering how to simultaneously be a great mom and hermit in a mountain, and if there’s a wawa located in any mountains.

Why wouldn’t we realize if kids can get overstimulated and turn into dickbags, most of the dickbags you encounter in your life (especially yourself!) are also overstimulated, unfocused, and outta their damn mind. We’re all chocolated-up toddlers demanding nap time 24/7!

We lack focus. Without focus, we’re generally ships without a compass lost in a world of circular thinking, rumination, habitual confused behavior, escapism, and in need of that nap.

Or, perhaps, more accurately: our focus is squandered in the wrong place. When you have that rare five minutes of quiet time, what do you focus on? Your blessings, or your problems? If you’re a resident of this planet, I bet problems are the more likely answer, although you’d try to caveat it with, but I’m really happy with my life, it’s just….

Focusing on something is transformative. In that, your focus takes you away from your idea of yourself, or your ego. We all have imaginary worlds we live in, where expectations run the show and expectation and reality are perpetually two ships passing in the night. When expectation and reality don’t align, frustration is a constant. When you focus on something and come away from your chattering monkey brain, suddenly shit makes more sense. Why? Because our brains can’t actually solve problems. Our ego, our idea of ourself, doesn’t do anything but take past data and attempt to answer a question. This just puts us in circles. This is what we all do when we have a problem, and it never actually solves our problems.

If anything, what if we create the outcome we don’t want? If you have a situation, and you’re focusing on the thing you don’t want to happen, how often does the thing you don’t want to happen come to fruition? When it does, do you feel a sick satisfaction that, although you’re miserable, at least you were prepared for it?

What if you made it happen though?

Your focus isn’t just what you’re doing, it’s what you’re creating in your life. Focus on peace, you will find peace. Focus on not wanting to fight about the dirty dishes, how many times did you end up fighting about dirty dishes? Focus on too much, and you end up confused and tired.

If you think about driving: if you focus on not hitting a pedestrian, you’ll find yourself inevitably steering away from the pedestrian you are somehow drifting towards. Where you set your focus is where you go, and focus doesn’t understand not. You’re staring at the pedestrian saying, “I don’t want to hit this 90 year old gentleman carrying his groceries”. Your focus says, “oh you wanna go to that guy? Got it!” Next thing you know, you’re jerking the wheel after startling someone’s grandpa. Google target fixation motorcycles and you can see this concept repeated in thousands of articles.

I think everyone has ADHD to varying degrees. ADHD is not a lack of focus, it is a lack of focusing on what someone else wants you to focus on. This is why school age children have these letters. The little bastards just don’t want to sit in a chair for 8 hours listening to someone talk about shit they’re not interested in. I don’t know any adults who struggle like that 🙄 Hell, this is a longer post: how well are you getting through it? Are you still reading? We all try to write less to keep our readers’ attentions because none of us have any!

ADHD, when framed properly, is a superpower, and we all have access to it. How many artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs have either ADHD or bipolar? How many stories have you heard where some wildly successful person sucked at school? Why is this? Their focus didn’t give a shit about anything but their focus, and they listened to it. An incredible musician can’t be incredible if they don’t play their instrument constantly. That’s great, because that was their focus. An inventor doesn’t give a shit about anything but making an iPhone. That’s great, because that was their focus.

We all have this to varying degrees because no brain is the same. Your focus could be as simple as wanting to drink a cup of tea and write in your journal. You put it off because your busy, and you end up grumpier than usual, because you didn’t do what you wanted to do. That urge did not come from your brain, either. We all know there’s a place in us that we can’t quite put into words, and when we don’t listen to it, it becomes a “man, I wish I had just….”

Focus is key. Our egos love to plan, dictate, tell us or shortcomings and problems. When we listen, we find lots more shortcomings and problems, and we create more of the same. Why? That’s where the power of our focus was squandered. If you do sit and journal with your tea, you may just find the answer to the question that’s been bugging you. If you go to that class you said you didn’t have time for, go to the gym, write the blog, etc: epiphanies can happen. You didn’t think of it, no amount of rumination did it. It wasn’t until you used your focus to not focus on creating problems did you, in fact, see through the problem.

Once I tapped into focusing on what I want versus what I didn’t want, life got better. Don’t get trapped by instant gratification. I didn’t practice yoga once and I am a billionaire with no cares in the world. My problems are exactly the same, I just see them differently. For me, focus and fixation come in approximately 1-2 week bursts. This week, my fixation has been practicing yoga nidra. This is something I had practiced when I started meditating, but didn’t know what it was called. It just made sense to lay down, close my eyes, and chill the fuck out. The week before was yoga. I pick one focus – whatever is pulling me the most – and I let that dictate my week. I’m busy, and I’m a mom. I don’t have tons of time. I keep my practices simple, I don’t let them become a guilt factor or burden. I just let it be my focus. Everything still gets done, but I redirect and focus on the fixation of the week when I start ruminating. Some weeks it’s cleaning my house, or writing, or journaling. I call my week whatever fixation I have, and it is my compass. I cut back on the shit I don’t need to make time for the shit I do. I can’t and won’t do everything I want or should do, so I pick one and I let my day focus on that. If it’s a yoga week, I plan my schedule around getting to yoga. If it’s a writing week, I wake up and write before I get distracted, etc.

What have you been wanting to do? What do you keep putting off? Where is your focus being squandered? If you had more time, what would you be doing? Start focusing on these questions, and I’ll bet things begin shifting. Keep focusing on the things you don’t want, and don’t be surprised when you told yourself so. Your focus will create your reality. Start using it to your benefit. What can you focus on today? Hit me up in the comments, this is my current fixation, and I want to talk more!

Up next, I’ll give you some more personal examples of my focus and fixation, a couple steps I took to get my focus back, and what changes I’ve observed since. Thanks for reading, and share the love if this was enjoyable, relevant, or semi coherent.

Using Your Body to Discipline Your Mind

Yesterday was Summer Solstice. At my yoga studio, Shanteel, we did 108 Sun Salutations to welcome summer. This was my second time – the first was for Spring Equinox. It’s a very challenging practice, taking about 2 hours to complete. It’s also deeply healing and eye opening.

Yoga is not about getting in better shape, although it helps. It’s not even about getting in proper postures, or looking like the Instagram pictures. Yoga teaches using the body to discipline the mind. I think when any of us are doing something repetitive and challenging, our brains love to comment on its difficulty and our inability to do it. If we listen to the chatter, the difficulty grows exponentially. Every ache, muscle, etc becomes screaming resistance.

It becomes a mind over matter situation, and yoga demonstrates this perfectly. As I was thinking how hard this was, I was struggling until I caught myself. I went to child’s pose, rested, and changed my internal monologue to a simple “I can do this”. I whispered it to myself as I was in downward facing dog. Eventually, thoughts ceased and all that remained was the sensation of my body, with my eyes closed, moving through the postures. I became focused solely on alignment and positioning, and allowed myself to just move without commentary. I stopped when needed for water or rest, but I was acutely aware of how many more sun salutations I did, how few rests I took, and how much my practice improved since spring.

I didn’t have to modify by dropping my knee in lunges, I could stay up. I was keeping my elbows hugged in for transition. More importantly, my internal monologue became kind and encouraging as opposed to critical and belittling.

Nowadays, it seems difficult to hear ourselves think. I didn’t notice it until I started meditating. I never noticed how critical and mean I was. On the outside, I was so nice to everyone, but on the inside, I was downright mean. This sets you up for terrible projections. If you are constantly criticizing and hating yourself internally, you’ll project those feelings unconsciously on the people you love. Their words and interactions will be perceived with negative intents where none were present. It’s inevitable.

It’s only by bringing awareness to the mental chatter that you can change it. Yoga helps because as much as you may feel good after a practice, it’s rare you want to contort your body in bizarre ways, sweat in places you didn’t know you could, all while trying to breathe and quiet your mind. My mind loves to tell me how hard it all is, yet not once have I lost a limb or died in practice. I generally get sore and relaxed.

This experience carries into day to day, as you become more aware of your monkey brain and realize that your thoughts are messing with your reality. Sure, my house is messy, but in my thoughts, it’s an insurmountable Mount Everest of dishes and laundry, my kids are bound and determined to drive me insane with messes, and I’ll never ever know what it’s like to be done cleaning. In reality, some music and a few hours of focus gets me where I need to be.

I never would have thought I’d be capable of 108 sun salutations. I remember struggling to even commit to 3 as I practiced on YouTube. I was scared of even joining a yoga studio. I thought I was too fat, too this, too that to join a studio. I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the classes. Yet, there I was, in reality, flowing through 108 sun salutations with my community.

If I had listened to my brain, I wouldn’t have a family at Shanteel. I wouldn’t have found my home, where I go to find myself daily. I wouldn’t have found my strength or beauty. I would have just sat around letting my brain kick my ass, as opposed to kicking my ass on the mat to see how much further I can go beyond my thoughts.

Last night was even more special for me. I promised myself I was going. I negotiated if I had to miss regular classes, I’d go. Because this is the week after my period, which means it’s depression week. Awareness of my cycle has helped me plan around my hormones. I know these weeks are tough for me. My energy is low, my mood is typically low, and life is harder than usual. My house is a mess, because I didn’t have the energy to keep up. My kids are home, and I had to let them do screens more than I’d like so I could rest more than usual.

Normally, depression weeks are harder to practice yoga for all these reasons. I’ve promised myself to try to get to 2-3 classes/week versus my normal 5-7. I’ve promised myself to rest without judgement, and listen to my body without criticism. I had to nap most of the day yesterday, but I got to the 108. All day, I was thinking of reasons I couldn’t or shouldn’t. All day, my brain wouldn’t shut up, and all day, I had to ignore it, because I promised myself I was going.

Depression used to be a call for mania, where I would force myself to hide everything away and pretend everything was great. I’d pile on activities and do anything to distract myself and hide it. Depression was 75% of the time for me. As I pushed, intrusive thoughts would begin screaming at me, I’d become suicidal, and driving would be a challenging experience of internally telling myself why driving into a phone pole or oncoming traffic was a terrible idea. Once I stopped that insanity, and allowed myself to feel depression, I became aware of how debilitating it was. I felt sad for all my body has been through as I fought. Once I accepted depression as a state I go through, episodes become shorter and less debilitating.

After about a year of regular yoga practice, almost 2 years of regular meditation, etc etc. I just did 108 sun salutations while I was having a bout of depression. This practice is about releasing what no longer serves you. What no longer serves me is telling myself I can’t be everything I want to be. What no longer serves me is being a slave to my thoughts and endless brain chatter. I am way, way stronger than I think I am. We all are. The only true limits that exist are the stories we tell ourselves.