Part Two: The Gratitude Filter

Crescent City California.

Small Town Coffee House on Highway 2 in Washington.

Small Town Coffee House on Highway 2 in Washington.

The gratitude filter has been tested for the past 3 states - Idaho, Washington, and Oregon - and it's been nothing less than the rope of a savior. One saying that I love is "the instructions on how to get out of the box are on the outside of the box." Gratitude is a rope out of the ridiculous situation of wondering about what happiness is - or might be. 

As the climate changed from Mountain-Dry to Pacific-North-West-Wet, there was no shortage of drear. Grey skies, consistent rain and drizzle, and no real structure of refuge aside from the van meant being one with the elements whether I liked it or not.

As I sit in the diner and reflect on these moments, a solitary sip of coffee brings me back to the contrast of the standalone, drive-thru espresso-coffee houses rampant in the cities of the Northwest. In the vacant expanses of parking lots of big-box businesses are these tiny standalone coffee-houses. Dotted along the major roads in Tacoma, the outskirts of Seattle, and even in some of the more rural ocean-side towns, you will find these little caffeinated coffers. These people really love coffee and were vehement about waiting in line in their cars for it. Perhaps the perk allows them to escape from the hum-drum of the day's precipitated hopes and dreams.


Four days ago, on a rainy morning, I caught myself re-experiencing and re-aligning with a traumatic relationship argument. My mind replays the words and points out the flaws in the logic of my transgressor and expounds upon them, bringing my pH into a gradual acidity tailspin of sorts.

The thought of the gratitude filter kicked in as I glanced at Ali and the conflicting thought - the rope ladder - all of a sudden became clear. "Caesar, the more energy you give to this experience, the more of it you create for your future. By allowing your mind to just run rampant like this, you are disrespecting the law of attraction." 

"Don't start with this crap."

"You started with the crap. I'm here to pinch it off before you are swimming in it." 

"..."

"Every great philosopher has disagreed on everything except one thing - man becomes what he thinks about. This is a universally accepted thought. Survivors of Nazi Germany agree. Refugee fairy tales. Entrepreneurs. Every real human hero you have and can think of are leveragers of this law. Whether you think it applies to you or not is of no consequence to the Law itself. Just because a person denies gravity, or is ignorant of the law of gravity, doesn't mean they are all of a sudden exempt from it. Babies don't float until gravity is explained and accepted by them - and the Law that you become what you think about doesn't cease to apply to you because you have an ingratiated moment. It's always working. Always."

The thought brought me several moments of silent reflection - something that hasn't been mine in what seems like months. "It's true." I thought to myself. 

Gratitude. To be thankful for the experience rather than angry or disdainful of it changes the emotion altogether. The elements of the structure of the sentence - or the topic - need not change, just the method of the rendering. The thought of what was said - when approached from a place of gratitude - all of a sudden are empowering and enlightening. It becomes understood that in the whole of reality, it'd be silly to think we can avoid actual conflict by simply avoiding thoughts of conflict. It's impossible to be social and simultaneously navigate and negotiate only positive experiences. There will be people, places, and things that we find disagreeable, but to approach these with an air of gratitude and appreciation for their defective is the power of the gratitude filter working to make sure our environment changes their would be acidic would-be spewage into neutral or potentially basic (positive) lessons and experiences.

Too far?

Maybe it's too far of a thought for some at the moment, but perhaps this is what's required. In The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, he mentions the power play of the Bold Move. Bold moves and statements put Donald Trump in office. Bold thoughts lead to bold moves and, sometimes, acts of boldness are completely disarming and disruptive to our current trajectory, but I digress.

The gratitude filter, I imagine, is a lot like those little coffee houses in the Pacific Northwest. Leave the house, head to work, and there's rain. There's always rain. But there's on thing you know: along the route, there will be your favorite little coffee house coffer. There will be a smiling face, a piping hot, starkly fresh, and disarmingly bold espresso for you. Sipping slowly in the car allows one to enjoy the time spent in traffic. Navigating carefully through the elements is almost an appreciated and artful meditation as the vapors of the red-roasted beans flood our senses. And finally, the following pick-me-up turns the drear of the rain into the white noise needed to drown out the distractions and produce your best work. That one moment - that one bold pick me up - is enough to bring the day into a perked up place of love and appreciation - and is a sort of head fake into a gratitude filter.

Having - or being conscious of a gratitude filter is like having little mental coffee houses along the roads that we travel in our day-to-day comings and goings. At any moment, we can pull off to the side, stop at one of these little boxes-of-joe, and snag a bold pick-me-up of gratitude and appreciation to totally turn the rain into something useful and positive. 

Balance.

Balance.

 

 

A Swole Poem

If thou lift, then thou art swole, 

For what is life but to be whole 

Blessed are the meek, for they may grow, 

From push and pull, to catch and throw. 

Lift with vigor, lift with might, 

Gain the muscle, strong and tight. 

For in this world of desperation, 

We must answer with perspiration.

Bow thy head, bend thy knee, 

Lead with your chest and lift it free

Hold it firm, then lower it slow

Allow your swole to put on a show

Tighten thine core and even thine keel,  

Call on Arnold's spirit, and drive through thine heels!

Set after set, day after day

Consistency and form, to the Iron we pray

Drinketh the whey, eat only the foods of whole

For proper nutrition is the path to the swole

For when Brodin giveth but we throw away, 

Wasted gainz is the price that we pay. 

Swole of the mind, 

Swole of the heart, 

Swole of the body, 

Swole is an art.

 

Whey-men

Exploring Myself as a Character in a Medium that's Writing Itself

a panoramic photo of The yellowstone Riverfront, Billings, Montana. 10.25.2017

a panoramic photo of The yellowstone Riverfront, Billings, Montana. 10.25.2017

Frosted Mini-Wheats tumble into the stainless steel, military surplus coffee mug I found amongst the rummage of a garage sale months earlier. The large brown eyes of my French Bulldog watch me patiently as my legs dangle from the liftgate platform of the Toyota Sienna that I have called 'home' for the past 2 months. Almond milk pours from a vacu-sealed container as I place his kibble on the parking lot of the Billings, Montana Walmart. My grandmother bought me 6 quarts of Almond milk back in Chicago from Cost-Co and I still haven't drunk it all - this is the second to the last container. The dull crunch of the cereal inside of my head dulls the white noise of wind intermixed with my rambling thoughts. Ali waits patiently for his command.

"Eat."

Ali buries his smushed face into the Go-Slow bowl and ravages what he can. I gaze at him lovingly, then lift my sights to the rising sun. They call this "Big Sky" country and it's clear why. The mighty Yellowstone river is just a couple of miles East and that is where the culmination of my Chautauqua on Happiness lies.

A few more bites and the wind dies down. Breakfast is finished and the chatter of my thoughts have quieted themselves. The folding of blankets, the tidying of things used, and the buttoning of my flannel shirt indicate we are ready to roll out. Ali has no idea where we are. He has no idea where we are going. And no idea what will be waiting for him at the next stop. He trusts me completely to act in love and care - and he trusts himself to make the most of wherever we end up. Is it always a great time? No, but as long as I'm there, he's good. He is thankful. 

Minutes later, we are at the Yellowstone River trail-head. We move East along a well worn path towards a green mountain range in the distance. The thoughts begin to bubble up once again. I do my best to focus. I intend on allowing the highest ones to be the loudest and clearest. Memories flash of my old vision board in South Carolina. Quick blips of moments forgotten echo amongst the chatter as we negotiate the gentle ups and downs of the pathway. The sun shines through the nearly naked birch-wood branches. It's late October and the Autumn transition seems premature.

"Happiness is..." 

And the sorting begins. Again. Step after step, the answer to the question "how does one attain it? Happiness? Happiness is..." And that's as far as the thought goes. More murmuring inside of my mind - step after step. Moment after moment. Different philosophers and books arguing with one another. Bickering, side-taking, and slandering as if it were a United Nations Parliament hearing. The gentle babbling of the water in the distance resounds among the breeze in the trees and the jingling of Ali's collar tags.

A sigh takes me as I silence the voices yet again. The glittering water rolls over the polished river stones and brings me back to a place of peace and quiet. Water. Rocks. Movement. I revert back to the base of the geometry of questions asked. Sentences, thoughts, and manifestations follow a formula. Like the molecular structures of organic chemistry, the thoughts we think have a basic structural rule system that they follow if they are to make sense in actuality.

We can create any molecule we want in a lab. As long as it hold together in a petri-dish it is considerable. The real structural test is exposing that molecule to the reality of an organic environment and seeing what happens. If the molecular structure created in the petri-dish doesn't follow the base rules of organic chemistry - angles, elements, and position - it will fall apart. In a similar way, we can create any thought we want about what happiness is in the petri-dish of our minds. When we apply it to the environment of our realities, the test becomes one of integrity that wrings it every way it sees fit. If it falls apart - if a sentence doesn't make sense when applied to reality - then it's breaking some structural rule of organic assemblage, and deserves to fall apart - leaving it's components free-floating like Lego's in plasma. In this way, every problem that seems irresolvable must be treated as a question being asked in the wrong way - or a molecule that requires some level of tinkering, twisting, or re-assemblage necessary for integral adaptation. This is the tricky part about the structure of chemicals and the structure of beliefs. And this is also where I have gotten myself stuck. 

Hawks glide high above in circles riding that same breeze that shushes the forest behind me.

I flip on the Point and Shoot and record my surroundings. The memory-machine records footage of Ali exploring, sniffing, drinking Yellowstone Water - "ugh. I'll have to give him worm meds after th-" STOP! The disruption echoes heavily through the halls and chambers where the voices were vivrant just moments before.

FREEZE!

"RIGHT THERE. That's the ANSWER to your question - the chink in your structure. LOOK - IT"S RIGHT HERE" the voice booms.

"A dog drinks happily from an historic river - something none of his buddies back home will EVER do in their NYC existence. They will never taste water this fresh or natural. He drinks because water is there. He drinks because he's thirsty. He is HAPPILY ENJOYING that water. Why - and from what place did the thought that begins with "UGH" originate from such a potentially beautiful experice? That place is the chink! That's the broken rule!. That place - wherever/whatever that chink is is the place that creates the pattern of unhappiness in thoughts." 

"Okay hot shot - what is missing here? What fixes this?" I answer.

...hmm...

This thought lacks it's counterpart. The structure of this molecule lacks it's balance - "H2" is missing it's "O". The period of the sentence came too early. Deceptively early. The molecule follows all of the rules perfectly and seems that it would be fine in reality, but when broken down, it ultimately contributes to the acidity of the environmental whole. The sentence is - inherently - negative. It's acidic. "Ugh" presupposes this. The molecular structure has a negative charge. It comes from a place that is only one facet of reality - a highly unuseful one. It is the negative facet. Happiness - a generally agreed upon as "positive" experience - alkaline, balanced and noble - can never derive from negative structures -  acidic, volatile, and reactive.

.... go on....

"Ugh." Nothing positive ever starts with "ugh" unless it's balanced with an "at least" or a "thankfully" or a "hopefully" to correct that acidity somewhere down the structural line. That correction restores it's molecular pH to 7 (or neither positive nor negative), but definitely not to one that's positive or promotional to happines - only one of neutrality. Perhaps only molecules that begin or end with positive or neutral elemental structures and charges are conducive to creating and flourishing in alkaline environments - and only sentences that follow a similar suit can create and exist in an environment of happiness.

...okay I am following the logic....So then what is necessary...

A screen of some sort - a filter.  Something that restores thoughts and corrects them into /neutral/positive structures. An alkaline filtration system...

As I gazed deeply into the shimmering waters of the Yellowstone river, I began to think of all of the balancers that must have evolved to create such a harmonious ecology - scrubbers, flora. bottom feeders, algae eaters.... But this is balanced by nature. Our minds are ours to balance as this river is Gaia's to balance.

Ali encroaches and licks my hand to interrupt my thought. 

...

"Gratitude. Happiness is....Gratitude?"

Of course. The Alkaline filter is Gratitude.

Ali looks up at me and cocks his head to one side...


To Be Continued.

 

The First Day of Fall - How the Changing Seasons Affect Us

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Yesterday was the first day of Autumn and this is the season to reap the harvest of the Spring and Summer toils. This is the second Fall since I first heard the words of the Live Your Best Life Seminar and had the concept of the seasons of life clarified for me. 

Rohn explains that the seasons of life are a reflection of the seasons of all important aspects of life - business, relationships, home management, finances, education - and should be observed in the same way as previous generations.

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For the last 100 years, we have been focused on developing technology and innovation that pushes the agenda of creature comforts. This separates us from the implicit affectation of the natural seasons and the corresponding lessons that their dynamics are meant to teach us. Take the extreme months - Winter and Summer for example. We have Central heat and AC, fans, heated fans, space heaters, heated space fans, heated blankets, heated socks, moisture wicking stay cool/stay dry t-shirts, and optimal temperature drink Yetis. We have heat and AC in our cars, our places of work, and everywhere we go along the way. We even have heated patios so we can dine outside comfortably during a Maine snowstorm.

I'm not saying these advances in technology are human progress misdirected. Of course these things are prolonging the lives of our elderly, giving hope to those of us involved in natural disasters, and safety to the endangered. However, winter is bitter and unforgiving for a reason - it's to teach us to prepare for lean times. The heat and gripes of the Summer creatures and noxious weeds are relentless for a reason - to teach us discipline and diligence.  Without the lessons of Winter and Summer - without the very real consequence of the pain of hunger and frostbite, or the very real threat of losing everything to the scavengers, we very seldom gain a sense of what it means to live with fulfillment and purpose. 

Our purpose has been largely defined for us as going to a job everyday to till our present day farms. Our garden's bounty is in the produce section at our local super market. The fire we need to build to stay warm during the Winter is a bill paid monthly. And the responsibility we have to keep the wolves and foxes and raccoons at bay is a phone call to animal control.

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We live in a system that is vastly better than times past and can guarantee wealth to nearly anyone that works smartly, as evidenced by the growing number of millionaires every year. But if it's so much better, why hasn't our suicide rate decreased? It has in fact increased to an all time high. Why do so many more Americans since the 1960s feel the need for therapy and stress management? Why doesn't life feel better?

Perhaps the blandness and blunted edges of the modern day seasons has disrupted the natural rhythm of gumption inherited from our ancestors - our necessary thirst for eustress and survival. This thirst causes us to seek out things in our environment and our day to day dealings to survive from. If we pay attention to the language we use around what we do, it  supports the idea: we survive a work day, we barely escape a meeting with our coworkers, we hunt for good deals at outlet malls, and we endure a grueling flight across the country. This lack of eustress is the causation of our inherent distress.

Our ancestors survived bitter Winters and slave passages, crusades and droughts, beasts and monsters that would have made muniere out of them. Logic ensues that natural selection must have been proactive in ensuring those ancestors that had the keen awareness to oversee and intercept their environments, while simultaneously working together for the greater good thrived. So, as we live in the full glory of all of our ancestor's achievements, we are left with a feeling that our present purpose is something lost amidst binge TV and fast food comas. 

Why is it we feel so good when we build a house for the homeless? Or when we donate food to the hungry? Our altruistic nature or is our sense of purpose of conotributing to a progressive cause being fulfilled? Why will we pay hard earned dollars to participate in something like the Mud Run? Why do we go camping? Hiking? Exploring? Fishing? Larping? Why do our hobbies largely consist of activities closely related to the troubles and challenges of our ancestors? Problem solving. Brain teasers. Puzzles. Challenges. Changes. 

We need stress - we will actively seek it out if we don't have enough of it in our lives - and if we can't find it, we will create it. The trick is not to remove stress from our lives, but rather to choose what stressors will be in our lives. We can choose positive stressors and participate in those communities - working out, Running, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Volunteering, or other labors of love. Or we can unconsciously choose what stresses us out - relationships, drama, gossip, sleep deprivation, isolation, loneliness, fatigue or illness or other labors of loathe. Or we can fool ourselves into thinking we'll "choose not to choose" which is - of course - a choice, and will most likely (because of our media and societal pressures) funnel us towards the latter.

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The US Navy SEALS have a motto: "Embrace The Suck." Do something that sucks that is good for you. It'll never stop sucking. You're a human-sucking. You are built to handle the suck. You need the suck. Become one with the suck and choose your suck wisely as it will determine just how much you will appreciate the beautiful moments and lessons learned in between them.

Day 2 and 3 - Maryland, Virginia, and OBX, NC

The day began with the sun rising high over Assateague, the island of wild horses. The waves reminded me of the continuity of all things that morning. I showered, packed up and hit the road. The next comparable city was a place called Pocomoke, with a Walmart, Car-Wash, and Pet Grooming center. Ali was salty and sandy and I was scared his skin would have an averse reaction if I left him dirty for too long so he got a proper bath.

Look Closely and you'll see wild horses blocking traffic.

Look Closely and you'll see wild horses blocking traffic.

Assateague Island

Assateague Island

After spending a couple of hours there, we headed south on the coast towards the Virginia Beach Lighthouse. The landscape was charming, the faces were Virginian, and the air - although clean - had a sort of undesirable feel to it. Maryland was open and clean, Virginia had a kind of staunchness to it. 

None of my plans worked out in Virginia - I didn't get to see the lighthouse, nor did I get to travel the route I planned through the national park, nor did I make any friends at any campsites. It was a state that gave me every indication to move along - so I did.

Everything about Virginia Beach said move along - even the sky - so I did. The light area is North Carolina - the gray area is deeper into Virginia.

Everything about Virginia Beach said move along - even the sky - so I did. The light area is North Carolina - the gray area is deeper into Virginia.

Heading down the coast to what they refer to as OBX (The Outer Banks), I arrived at Kitty Hawk, NC - the birthplace of flight. There was a rest stop, so we rested. In the morning, I woke up and flew my drone over the bithplace of flight.. How ironic... 114 years after the first flight, I take a quad-copter out of my bag and fly nearly 2000 feet above what Wilbur and Orville Wright accomplished all of those years ago. I doubt the Wright brothers had any idea that their small glide so many years ago would result in interplanetary travel, but it did. 

Kitty Hawk 1.jpg

Our thoughts - our dreams - how deceptively small they seem, but they are seeds. Have you ever seen a watermelon seed? do you see what it grows in to? An acorn? In the spirit of the words etched into the monument, "humankind is a continuum of pioneers sharing timeless dreams and the boundless possibilities of vast unexplored worlds."

Onward.