A Good Place to (Re)Start

Hello, and welcome to the Living Revolution 🙂

This week represents a shift in the seasons, as summer ends,  and fall begins. For me, this week also represents a time to “start over” or refresh. My family lives a hectic and busy life, and we try hard to establish and maintain routines that are effective and efficient. We try hard to prioritize our time together, and still leave room for leisure activities and spontaneity. Often, when we are focused on constructing our schedules, we overlook the blank spaces on the calendar. We forget about those time when nothing is going on, and we have the opportunity to relax at home, without an agenda. The quiet moments spent reading together on the couch, the teamwork of preparing and sharing dinner as a family, the relaxation of lying in the yard, soaking in the sunshine, all represent a sense of freedom to me. In my mind, this downtime is much more important than all the activities and hobbies we chase after to fill up our lives, but it is often neglected, and that sense of freedom is replaced with a sense of obligation to what comes next on our weekly checklist. Is this any way to live life?

Today, I want to share a short video with you that asks a very important question: What does freedom mean to you? The speaker in this video offers some interesting insight to possible answers to this question, but I would very much like to hear what you have to say on the matter. Post a comment below or shoot me an email and let me know how you manifest a sense of freedom in your life on a daily basis. Thank you for reading my words, and for participating in the Living Revolution! Until next time…Peace.Tobias.

On Redefining Masculinity

Welcome to the Living Revolution 🙂

Well, friends, I survived October.  The last couple weeks have been an incredible trip, fraught with emotional perils like I’ve never encountered. Much of my internal universe has shifted significantly and continues to bend, flex, contract and expand as I process these new feelings and all the excellent information I received from the friends and family with whom I sought counsel. I am looking at the world through a very different lens as I write this now, and I want to share with you some of what is going on in my head :).

Two stories in the popular media grabbed my attention this month. First, a communal act of bravery and unselfishness demonstrated by a team of middle school football players. The second, a bullying scandal from another football team, the Miami Dolphins. The actors in this story are, by most conventional definitions, considered adults. The actors in the first story are boys, just delving into puberty, young men, at best. Both stories are emotionally charged, but they inspire feelings on opposite ends of the spectrum of human behavior. The Dolphins story pisses me off and makes we wonder how some human beings are infected with so much negative energy and darkness they forget how to treat the people around them with dignity and respect. The first story inspires me and reminds me there are good things happening all around us, and changing the world in a positive way still takes place on a person-to-person level. It makes me ecstatically happy to see compassion, camaraderie, courage, and love acted out by children who probably don’t yet understand the gravity and influence of their actions.

In light of challenges I’ve been working through recently in my personal life, I am looking at these stories and asking questions about what it means to be a “man” in both these situations. What impact does gender have on stories like these? What are the cultural implications for men when we recognize these kind of stories on a national level? What kind of precedent is the current generation setting for acceptable male behavior in modern society? What changes must be made now for men who wish to live healthier, happier, more fulfilled lives? What lessons must we teach our sons to ensure they won’t suffer or create suffering as a result of their emotional immaturity and ignorance?

Here is the link to the blog article that got me thinking about all this:

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9939308/richie-incognito-jonathan-martin-miami-dolphins-bullying-scandal

Here is a link to the story about the middle school football team:

http://elitedaily.com/news/world/can-learn-lot-middle-school-football-team-video/

I believe we are all familiar with how our culture and American society views and expresses masculinity, and how this culture defines being a “Man”. Boys are taught to be tough, to go for the kill, to compete, engage and destroy. Men are reminded to never show weakness, to suppress emotion, to grow beards and build muscles,  to overcome, pillage and conquer. These notions and ideas are antiquated leftovers, the dregs of a mentality that has little practical applicability to modern culture. However, these ideals persist, and we find the negative consequences from this kind of thinking in aspects of culture ranging from professional sports to politics to business. Problems arise when our men and boys don’t see these attributes and behaviors as metaphors, but rather as tangible characteristics they should develop and express. Problems arise when we forget to teach our boys and men how to temper aggression with empathy, sympathy and compassion, and how to turn off the “killer instinct” when it is inappropriate.  In the sport-specific examples above, we forget these men and boys are playing a game, not fighting a war, and we forget the “ripple effect” these stories have as they reverberate through our collective consciousness.

For  my part, I will tell you where my focus has shifted. While I value my “masculinity’ and what it feels like to “be a man”,  I am also learning how to subvert this way of thinking and open myself up to expressing my manliness in ways that have nothing to do with aggression or violence. For example, I am learning new ways to express  humility toward my partner and my children through the domestic endeavors of daily housework. I am learning compassion and patience from my kids, as I attempt to understand life from their perspective, and frame our interactions knowing they are still figuring out how this crazy world works.  I am learning more about trust and love as I work to make myself emotionally vulnerable to my partner and my intimate friends. I am stretching my boundaries and learning about courage by pursuing my desires without attachment to an outcome, but rather enjoying the process and the journey of what my life is right now.

None of this is easy work, and I am confronted by challenges on a daily basis that make me sit down and think hard. But, I’ve recognized the value of this work, and I continue to see positive changes in my own behavior, and I continue to recognize how my positive energy impacts the people with whom I interact. So, I am writing this post for a few reasons. If you are male-gendered and reading this, I encourage you to check the links I posted and feel how you react to these stories. I want you to turn a critical eye inward to determine where you find yourself on the spectrum of human behavior. Do you embody and express empathy, compassion, and sympathy in your everyday life? Why or why not? What example are you setting for other men, OR if you are a father, what example are you setting for your children? If you are female-gendered and reading this, I want you to check the links, and think about how you interact with men in your life. Do you continue to accept and allow aggressive, offensive, hurtful behavior in your daily life? To what standard do you hold the men in your life? How can you take action to teach men this nastiness is unacceptable and it is time for a BIG CHANGE?

Ultimately, this isn’t a gender issue, but a HUMAN issue, and I understand that we all need to be working to prevent behaviors like bullying, racism, aggression and interpersonal violence. We all need to be working harder to proliferate behaviors of kindness, compassion, empathy and sympathy, because life is already hard enough, without any added interpersonal bullshit. This post is part of my commitment to change, both in my personal life, and in the world around me. Won’t you join me? Thanks so much for reading this, and for participating in the Living Revolution :). Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

Follow Your Bliss, (Think for Yourself (for Grownups!))

Hello Friends,

I’ve been talking about my blog this week. At the gym during class; with my lovely partner as we chat before bed; with friends during a night out on the town. In each situation, I’ve been asked to clarify what I am trying to do with my writing, and specifically how I am going to use this blog to bring about the changes I want to experience. I’ve been asked to define WHY I am putting my energy in to this project. My response has been the same in each situation; I intend to use this blog and my creative energy to subvert the dominant paradigm in as many ways as possible.

Each of the people I spoke with had a hard time understanding what I meant. I am going to try to be more clear here.

“Subvert the dominant paradigm” sounds like something you might read on a clever bumper sticker, right? Defining each word individually gives you an inclination of the ideas, ideals and philosophy we are working toward, but it doesn’t really tell you what I mean.  It might be helpful to inform you this phrase has been used as a battle cry by the Anarchist movement for years, and remains a strong tenet of the belief system used by those who label themselves “Anarchist”.  I think the Hippies said it best a long time ago: Go Against the Flow. Think for yourself. Be the Change. Catchphrases are a dime a dozen, but WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?!

As a headstrong teenager, fresh out of my parent’s nurturing embrace, I thought subverting the dominant paradigm meant getting a facial piercing and wearing clothes that didn’t really fit me. I raged against conformity and compromise, grew my hair long, and got a tattoo. I wanted so badly to be different. Or at least, I wanted to present myself as being different. Then, all the cool kids I hung out with ended up looking just like me. We all wanted so badly to be unique; to be novel; to be the “other”. We rode skateboards, tagged dumpsters, worked shitty jobs and slept on couches. We knew exactly what we DIDN’T want to be, but we had no idea what we wanted to be instead.

Now, we all have kids, and car payments. We went back to school and earned degrees, and accrued debt. We bathe regularly, eat grass-fed beef, and go to bed at a “reasonable” hour. Some of us still dye our hair crazy colors, lots of us are still saving for our next tattoo, and after living through a whole host of life experience, most of us finally have a good idea of what it REALLY means to subvert the dominant paradigm. We chase our dreams!

We consciously make choices in our lives that constitute a paradigm shift. We spend time and effort creating the lives and relationships we want, and our successes and failures are determined by the effort we are willing to put forth. Though our lives are constrained by many parameters of “mainstream” culture, we use creativity and curiosity to find ways to bend the rules of the dominant culture, or bypass them altogether and create our own set of rules. We are entrepreneurs and independent artists. We are blended families of all variations, and our tribal network extends beyond any tangible boundaries. We are constantly researching, exchanging information, learning new tricks, and working hard to make sure we are better people today than we were yesterday. This last part is what really separates us from the teeming masses: our desire to achieve our needs, wants, and desires through deliberate effort.  We follow our bliss. We determine our own path. We refuse to take ANYTHING at face value. We refuse to do anything simply because we are told to, or because that is the way everyone else does it. We have the tools, the resources, and the intention to live the lives that we want to live.

All we have to do is practice what we preach. Follow your Bliss. Do the extra work to fulfill your needs, wants and desires. Set the example for people who are stuck in apathy and indifference. Go Against the Flow. Change the Rules. Forge your own path. Do your best to resist the urge to buy clever bumper stickers, and instead live a life that authentically displays your core values and ethics to the world, leaving no question whether or not you think for yourself. I think it really is that simple :).

Tell me what “Follow Your Bliss” means to you. What dreams are you chasing right now? What excuses are holding you back? If we are going to change the world, we need to do it RIGHT NOW.

Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

Prioritize

Hello Friends ,

I’ve been trying to write this post for the past two weeks. Another epiphany struck me, just as summer set in here in Portland. I need to get my sh@# together. Seriously. It is time for me to start taking responsiblity for my life, for my goals, for my wants/needs/desires, for everything that I convince myself I can control in my little universe. What a sweet notion this is :).

With the kids being home from school, and my partner starting night classes at the community college, life got a bit hectic. I think we all handled ourselves pretty well, and there weren’t nearly as many catastrophic freak outs as I thought there would be. However, these changes did help me recognize that I put up with a lot of bullsh#% from myself that is really unnecessary. I make life harder than it needs to be, and this stresses me out, stresses my kids out, and generally makes life unpleasant and chaotic. So, I decided to stop doing all that and PRIORITIZE. Here is a short list of what I am going to put my time and energy into in the coming days/weeks/months. I’d love to hear what you are spending you energy on, so after you read my list, shoot me a list of your own!

I’ve always been adamant about putting family first. It always seems like the hardest to pull off, and it always feels the worst when something prevents me from fulfilling my responsibilities to the people I care most about. I work hardest on this one, because I know if I don’t have the foundation of love, support and accountability I need to continue to grow as a human being, I would be utterly lost in the world. My kids and Alix deserve the most from me, so I am committing myself to being the best partner/parent I can be.

Work only comes second because of how closely it is tied to the my first priority. I need to support my family by doing well at my chosen profession, and diligently endeavor to achieve excellence in whatever undertaking I choose to pursue. My work also gives me purpose and drive to grow academically, and develop my personality to thrive in a variety of different situations. As a coach, I spend much of my time working hard to ensure people clearly understand specific concepts, and teaching them how to articulate those concepts in a physical reality using their own bodies and other implements. Really, it is just excercise, but I will work to make it something special.

Training is a close third because it is also tied so closely to the first two. To be able demonstrate a Muscle-Up, it really helps if you can DO  a Muscle-Up, so I practice ALOT.  Also, physical activity helps me keep an even keel. I won’t ever claim that I have ADHD, but sometimes when I think about it real hard, the shoe fits pretty well, if you know what I mean. I NEED to move. Thrashing around with a barbell, or testing how long I can hold a handstand, or trying to beat my previous burpee record all serve to keep me active, fit, healthy and sane. Training helps me do my job well, which in turn, helps me take care of my family here. I bet you are beginning to see how these are all intertwined…

Friends don’t get nearly enough time, in my opinion. My social schedule obviously revolves around the first three priorities, and those often take up all the hours in the day. When I do socialize, it is often with the same people I train/work with. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad scenario, but it can get a bit awkward sometimes when people don’t act like adults, and they allow the lines of those respective circles to blur, and then shit can get messy. Recently, I have been working on expanding my social circle, but it hasn’t worked very well so far. I’ve also tried contacting a few long, lost friends from my past, but quality time and positive interaction with those people have been fleeting at best. Internet dating sites are a bit awkward, but I am trying it out, just to see who is out there in the big, wide world. You never know, until you look, right?

Writing comes last, and for this, I punch myself in the face on a regular basis. Words are my passion, and often, the best way to find common ground with other people.  I assume that is why you all continue to read what I write, and find some value in this blog. Right now, I am trying my best to bang out the last few paragraphs of this essay, so I can grab the kids, and jet off to the river for a bit before the sun tucks itself back behind the clouds. I don’t spend nearly enough time editing, or rewriting, or spellchecking, or idea-finding. I don’t spend nearly enough time using my words to alter the world around me in a positive way. I don’t spend nearly enough time using my worlds to affect social change, or to challenge the dominant paradigm of Amerikan culture, or rage against the injustice and insanity I see around me every day. I don’t spend nearly enough time using my words to tell people I love them, or to spread good cheer, or to make new friends, or send encoragement to someone I know needs it most. I NEED to write more!

This is a pretty short list, but I think it is necessary to pare down and focus. Even with only five items, I know there will always be something that isn’t getting my full attention, and there will always be something that I need to spend more time on. But, at least now I have a starting point, and I have plan of action. What are your priorities today? Who or what do you want to spend more time with? What goals and dreams are you chasing this summer? Drop me a line and let me know what is on your mind :). Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

How Awesome Are You?

Sometimes I forget how awesome I am.

Repeat that to yourself and see how it changes your day. It has taken me thirty-one years to figure out that it is okay for me to remind myself how awesome I am.  See, every year, leading up to my birthday, I spend a week over-analyzing the last twelve months of my life and working to find some significance in my existence. I think I lead a pretty awesome life, so I always come up with some good stuff, but this year was especially poignant and revealing. I’d like to share my epiphany with you now :).

Now, before you label me a narcissistic, egotistical a##hole, please let me be clear. My “awesomeness”, (and your awesomeness as well), does not come from the cornucpoia of gifts we are blessed with, but rather from the plethora of faults, quirks, fu%$ ups, scars, misses and failures that constitute the majority of our lives. I believe these experiences are what teach us all the important lessons in life. I also believe it is an unrealistic expectation to tell oursevles to ignore our broken side, in favor of some impossible search for perfection. Which brough me to my lightbulb moment; I realized this year that it is okay to be who I am, with all the good, bad and ugly stuff that makes me “me”.  I realized that I wanted live the life I want to live. With this realization,  I made the choice to live authentically.

For some of you, my  realization might be a simple reminder for how you already live your life. To you, I say, “well done”.  Accepting yourself, with all the craziness and quirkiness that makes you “you”, is no easy task. The trial and error proccess of finding out who you really are, and then coming to terms with who you are, and then taking responsiblity and ownership of everything that makes you an individual, is not something easily acheived. You deserve all the confidence, self-respect, pride and happiness you’ve earned.

For others, this may be an entirely foreign concept. Like me, you probably grew up comparing yourself to some arbitrary standard, and attempting, with every fiber of your being, to be the person you imaginged other people thought you should be. You made concessions to other people’s opinions and advice, wanting so badly to be part of something bigger than yourself, but never really developing a personality or opinion of your own. As an adult, you continue this pattern by avoiding conflict, staying safe, coloring inside the lines. You are grateful for everything you have, but you have stopped dreaming and reaching for MORE. You are content with your life, but you have stopped pushing limits or taking risks, or tempting fate, because you worry you might ruin the “good thing” you have now. This mentality is killing our souls.

Growing another year older made me think back on the last twelve months of my life and evaluate what significance my life had. What impact did I have on world around me? What impact do I have on the people I spend time with? What challenges have I overcome? What lessons have I learned? What fears have I conquered? After thinking long and hard, I realized that I wasn’t living up to the standard I had set for myself. I was letting myself slip into comfort and safety. I was keeping up a facade in many aspects of my life, and working hard to convince myself that “settling” has it’s advantages. But that is not really who I want to be. That is not who I am.

Now, I am working to make every day an opportunity to life authentically and uapologetically as myself. It is okay for me to be good at what I do, and it is okay to be proud of my work. It is okay for me to be a less-than-perfect parent to my two beautiful children, and it is okay for me to be the best dad ever (when I can pull it off). It is okay for me love my amazing partner, and it is okay for me to show her how I feel in as many ways as I can possibly think of.  Sometimes it is okay for me to be an asshole and a hermit. Sometimes it is okay for me to be vulnerable and broken. Sometimes I will throw a fit, and sometimes I won’t have the right answer and sometimes I will push too hard. But I will do all that knowing I have responsibility for my gifts and my curses, for my faults and talents, and I am living my life as the person I want to be. I encourage you to all try to do the same :).

Until next time..

Peace.Tobias.

Did We Forget How To Survive?

Hello Friends,

Last year, I read two books by author Laurence Gonzales. The first is a book titled “Deep Survival”. The basic premise of that book suggests there are innate characteristics in people that either a) predispose them to be survivors, or b) predispose them to be destroyed by their environment. The book is much more complex than those simple statements, though, and much of the research is based on extreme circumstances that often could have been avoided with proper preparation and some forethought.

The second book is titled “Everyday Survival”. The tag line for this book is “why smart people do stupid things”.  This book takes a more general view of how human beings have survived to become the most dominant species on this planet. In this book, Gonzales also questions the physical and psychological systems that have evolved to sustain life on this planet, and he investigates the role human beings play in the functioning of the universe. The main premise of this book is that human beings have evolved to believe we can control the environment around us, and that we are somehow separate from and superior to the other inhabitants and processes that make up our “known, physical reality”.

Gonzales uses this book to caution against what he calls a “vacation state of mind”.  At some point in our evolution, human beings forgot how to exist symbiotically with the environment around us, and adopted the mindset that we are in control of “our” environment and can bend the forces of nature to our will whenever we desire. “Everday Survival” explains how terribly wrong we are.

As I worked my way through this book, more and more questions came to mind, and I became more and more frustrated with the evidence Gonzales presented. As a species, are we really re-programming ourselves to on such a grand scale? Are we truly forgetting how to interact positively and effectively with the natural environment? Have we really convinced ourselves of the foolish notion that we are the literal and metaphorical center of the universe, despite all the contradictory evidence? How did we get so confused, and how did we get this far off-track?

In modern, industrial society, we have constructed a series of boxes that now exist as our “natural environment”. You wake up in your boxy bed, in your boxy house. You find your food in an artificially cooled box, then you cook your food on another box using flame-less fire. Then you drive your boxy car to your boxy office, and spend the next eight hours staring at a your boxy computer on top of your boxy desk. Then the whole process reverses itself, and you end your day staring at another flashing box for a few hours before you fall back into your boxy bed in your boxy bedroom. Like a vast majority of modern humans,  you never experienced hunger or danger or pain. You are essentially numb to the world around you, because every day, life unfolds “the way it is supposed to”, and you are never presented with the opportunity to question that fact or challenge that fact or deviate from the simple, stepwise processes we have created for ourselves. Seriously, what are we doing to ourselves?

Not only is the lifestyle causing our brains to devolve, it is slowly diminishing the value of anything that could be called our “soul”, as well as conditioning human beings to exist without consciously and mindfully interacting with the world around them. Our bodies are wasting away from eating nutrient-deficient foods, not engaging in enough physical activity, and lack of stimulation from (and interaction with) our environment. All out little boxes keep us well-protected, and so we are never provided the opportunity to question our mortality, or test the limits of our physical bodies, or employ our mind to work our way through complex intellectual problems.

What does it mean for our species if the premise of this book is true? What will happen if we continue down the path we are currently on? The picture looks a bit dim, but we still have the opportunity to change our course.  How do you stay connected with the natural world, and what are some benefits that you derive from spending time away from the hustle and bustle of modern life? What do you do to get that jolt of epinephrine that let’s you know you are alive? How do you remind yourself of your place in the Universe? Drop a comment, and tell me how you keep your mind right in the modern world. Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.