Learning Gratitude

Welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

First, I want to say “Thank You”. Many of you have been reading my words and interacting with me for a few years now, and our on-again off-again relationship continues to give me reason to think hard about how I live my life. You hold me accountable, you provide a sounding board for my thoughts and rants, you give me feedback about how you live life, and through all that, we establish and maintain community. Many of you I see in real life, and we further strengthen our bonds with face-to-face interaction. For all of this, I am exceedingly grateful. So, again, “Thank You” :).

Which brings me to my point today. I don’t see enough gratitude in the world, and I am here to say we need more. I am here to say we need to think more grateful thoughts, we need to speak more grateful words, ¬†we need to start living more grateful lives and acting out gratitude on a person-to-person level. This is not rocket science, and everyone reading these words has the ability to change the world in a positive way by fostering gratitude, and living more grateful lives. Here’s why I think this is important…

In a quick search on the interwebs for definitions of “gratitude”, I also found an extensive list of antonyms of gratitude. For those who may not remember from middle school English class, antonym means “opposite”. A brief list of antonyms of gratitude include the following words: boorishness, callousness, censure, condemnation, disloyalty, ingratitude, rudeness, thanklessness, thoughtlessness.¬†Each of these words, in turn, has a list of synonyms (words with similar meaning), but I am sure you get the point. If ¬†you don’t know what these words mean, I encourage you to look them up, read the definition, and then feel how you react to those definitions.

A common theme between all these words is the idea of separation or dis-integration. When you condemn someone you pass judgment on them, and place yourself above them in a hierarchy, separating yourself from them. When you are disloyal to someone, you betray their trust, you break the bond of faith, and separate yourself from them. When your behavior is callous, rude, or thankless you show people you are insensitive, unsympathetic, lack manners, and you separate yourself from them.

I know I have experienced something like these negative feelings in my life, and I assume, many of you have as well. I know that I treated people unpleasantly as a result of my own selfishness and narcissism. I know I missed opportunities for genuine connection with other people because, I made the choice to react callously or thoughtlessly. I know I experienced a less-fulfilling life in those moments when I am not paying attention to how truly blessed I am.

This is unacceptable. ¬†In those moments, I haven’t set a good example for others to follow. In those moments, I’ve missed an opportunity to make another human being feel good. In those moments, I allowed my ego to cloud my thoughts, to disrupt my flow, to set me at odds against the rest of humanity. When I selfishly put myself in my little box that is all my own, when I choose to withhold gratitude, I separate myself from potential connection, from relationship, from community. ¬†I FAIL.

Human beings are social creatures, by nature. Even the most introverted soul requires some measure of positive, real-life, face-to-face interaction with other human beings to live a healthy, happy, fulfilled life. When we consciously choose not to express gratitude, we suppress that urge for connection. When we choose to not be thankful, we numb ourselves against the vulnerability and openness that giving thanks requires. When we choose to be grateful for this thing over here, but not that thing over there, we allow those minuscule fissures of separation to take hold, and it only gets worse from there. So, let’s not do that, okay?

I need to be clear here, and be very specific about how we are all going to start practicing gratitude. I need to be specific because some people may take my words and put them in tiny, separate boxes, and may decide they only want to express gratitude “when it seems appropriate”, or “when it makes sense”. But, that simply won’t work. We need to start being grateful for EVERYTHING.

Start with the easy parts. Be grateful for your home, food, income, family and friends. If you don’t have these, or if you have reasons you aren’t grateful for these things, you may have a larger issue that needs to be addressed!! Next, extend your circle of gratitude beyond “survival-mode”. Be grateful for your smartphone, the internet, the beautiful sunrise, and your favorite pants. These things are all helpful and useful, and it doesn’t take too much effort to be grateful for them. From here on, things start to get difficult…

Extend your gratitude outward to the annoying acquaintance who won’t stop talking to you while you are in line at the coffee shop. Extend your gratitude toward the telemarketer who calls to sell you life insurance,¬†just as you sit down to dinner. Be grateful to the cyclist who brazenly chooses to ride in the middle of the lane instead of merging to the side so you can pass. Now, you are on the right track, but there is more still…

 Choose two or three small challenges or problems in your life, and consciously express gratitude for lessons the Universe is teaching about yourself  as you navigate these challenges.This part may take some practice and a little time to get used to. You will need to be more mindful of how you interact with other people. You will need to practice holding your tongue, and filtering your thoughts, and formulating conscious response to situations and people, instead of simply reacting to situations and people. You know, THINK. Use the fore-brain that supposedly put us at the top of the evolutionary ladder, and take charge of how you perceive the world around you, and how you interact with the other agents of the Universe who exist here with you.

Finally, you need to bring your awareness to the people and situations that are actively bringing “negativity” to your life. I use quotation marks, because defining something as negative is simply a matter of perspective, and you can always change your perspective. Did someone you love just die? Be grateful. Did the ceiling of your bedroom fill with rainwater, then burst and disintegrate above you in the middle of the night? Be grateful. Did a fake African prince hack your bank account and steal thousands of your hard-earned dollars? Be grateful.

This will not be easy. This will expose nerves you never knew you had. But this work is necessary. This work is worth it.

However, most of us will never get to that last part. Because it’s hard. It requires effort. It requires practice. It is a pattern of thought that goes against the “me, me, me” selfishness and insecurity so common in modern society. I can’t say much to convince you of this truth. But I can say this: if you never make the decision to express gratitude to the negative stimuli in your life, you never open yourself up to potential gifts, graciousness and healing that result from coming out the other side of those challenges. Missing out on all that potential awesomeness is truly a tragedy.

Wow. Okay. That rant turned in to a novel. I hope you all get my point. I’d love to hear your tales of gratitude, and maybe even some lessons you learned from choosing to make yourself vulnerable, and choosing to invest the time and effort ¬†to say “Thank You”. ¬†As always, thank you for reading my words, and for actively choosing to participate in The Living Revolution. Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

On Trying Too Hard

Welcome to the Living Revolution ūüôā

Many of you know I spent the last two weeks in the depths of a¬†personal hell I’ve never experienced before. There was a darkness inside me that I couldn’t explain, and it broke me down in a powerful way.¬† In an effort to determine the cause of this madness, and to find a way to heal myself, I reached out to family and friends, in hopes of finding a sustainable solution.

My mom said it was probably a lack of healthy bacteria in my gut.

My dad said I play on the internet too much and I need to spend more time with Nature.

My coach said I should have my hormone levels checked, and immediately start supplement use.

My circle of friends suggested I should quit smoking pot. Or smoke more pot. Or meditate. Or exercise more. Or exercise less. Or see a therapist. Or start writing again. Or eat less gluten. Or breathe more deeply. Or bang my head against a wall. Or just ignore what I was feeling and it would go away. Gaaaaaaah!! I researched depression and anxiety. I researched mid-life crisis and hormone imbalance. I researched gluten intolerance and THC overdose. None of these seemed to adequately address what I was feeling or the thoughts that were keeping me up at night. The struggle continued…

While I am grateful for all the advice, assistance and encouragement, most of this info just made me think harder about what was swirling around in my head, and my confusion increased. Most everyone told me it was time for me¬†to “CFO”(chill-the-fuck-out), and quit trying so hard. But “trying hard” is what I do. Confronting problems head-on is my MO. My first solution to most problems is more effort, more energy, more work. If this wasn’t the solution, then what was my next option?

Because I so highly value logic and reason, I began to think about what it would feel like to take everyone’s advice and not take life so seriously. Is it really a big deal if laundry doesn’t get done today? Is it really a big deal if I only train 4 days a week, instead of 6? Is it a big deal if it takes my kids 30 minutes to get ready in the morning instead of 15 minutes? Surprisingly, the answer to all these questions is a resounding “NO”.¬† It really isn’t a big deal. Huh. What a novel concept.

I started small. I made a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish in one day, then I cut that list in half. I engaged single tasks, putting energy and effort in to the enjoyment of completing that specific task, without considering the next item on my list. I began to practice mindfulness and conscious concentration. I began to prioritize what made me feel good, and I decided to avoid letting my checklist determine my happiness. I reduced my social schedule, and spent more time writing, reading, and sitting in silence. I stopped counting calories. I stopped tracking my workouts. I stopped texting while driving. I took a break from self-medicating to remind me what sobriety feels like.  And you know what? Things began to change, immediately.

The terrible ache in my stomach dissipated. The cloud over my heart and my mind began to lift. Most importantly, the world did not end. I used my words and kept checking in with the important people in my life, and they assured me it really was okay if I wasn’t Superman all the time. It was okay if little things slipped through the cracks. It was okay if I allowed them to help me. It was okay that I asked for that help. It was okay that I needed to step back and take stock, reevaluate, and take some time for myself. It was okay for me to prioritize what I really wanted, and to cut away some of the silly bullshit I was using as an excuse to stay busy ALL THE TIME. I started to feel passionate again about the parts of my¬†life I truly love: my family and my tribe, my writing, my jiu jitsu practice, my work and the people who trust me with their health and fitness. I took my “busy” energy and refocused that effort on the things that truly matter to me. At first,¬†I¬†was worried this kind of mindset would seem selfish and egocentric, but that isn’t true. By taking more time for myself, and making sure all my silly business is organized, and making sure I am on point, and making sure I have my ducks in a row, I am a more fulfilled human being, which, in turn, makes me a better PARTNER, FATHER, LOVER, BROTHER, COACH, FRIEND, SON, ATHLETE, WRITER.

I am only one week in to this new practice, but it feels right and it feels like it is working.¬† It is all about awareness of addressing little pieces at a time, and allowing the bigger picture to come in to view in small increments, rather than as a shotgun blast to the face. Clarity is easy to maintain when I don’t have a whole bunch of silly bullshit clouding my view.¬† I am sure this will be a practice I will continue to develop, and I look forward to learning more about myself and the world around me through this new adventure. I know it would be helpful if I left a detailed description of this practice here for others to follow, but I feel like this is an experience that is different for each person.¬† Have you experienced a shift like this in your own life? What brought you to a positive resolution? Are you currently dealing with the heaviness and darkness¬†I mentioned? Maybe something of what I’ve written here will be helpful to you. Won’t you please leave a comment here, or on the Facebook post and let me know that you are okay? I’d love to hear your stories and experiences and how you come out the other side. Thanks for reading this, and for participating in the Living Revolution! Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

Love and Scarcity Economics (Or Why Monogamy and the Nuclear Family may not be our best Option)

Hello Friends,

Today’s post touches on a subject that holds strong significance in my personal life. I encourage you to read this week’s post with an open heart, and if you have an intelligent opinion that differs from what I write here, I encourage you to share it, and open a conversation that we can both learn from :).

The inspiration for this post came out of a book I am currently reading called ‚ÄúExpect Resistance‚ÄĚ, which contains a variety of¬†fictional¬†anecdotes based on the demise of industrial society. As you might imagine, much of the content of this book deals with subverting the dominant paradigm and breaking away from the status quo. This post will draw heavily from an excerpt of the book that questions the logic behind the modern practices of monogamy and the nuclear family.

The last few generations of Americans have been raised in an environment dominated by a capitalist economy, which has taught us certain psychological lessons that are difficult to unlearn:

Anything of value is only available in limited supplies. Stake your claim now before you are left with nothing. 

Unable to imagine that love and pleasure could be multiplied when shared, we now find ourselves measuring commitment and affection by how much others sacrifice for us. This idea of mutual sacrifice convinces us that the relationship we are joining in is more valuable than the desires and freedoms we are forgoing. But this isn’t always true, and in my opinion, should not be the case in the first place.


We all know that positive relationships take¬†work.¬†Think about that. Wage labor, relationship labor‚Äďis there ever a time when we aren‚Äôt on the clock? When you have to¬†work at monogamy, you are back in the exchange system: just like the capitalist economy, your intimacy is governed by scarcity, implicit threats, and prohibitions, and it is all protected by the belief that there are no viable alternatives. When relationships are based solely on¬†work,¬†when desire is organized contractually around balanced accounts (tit for tat), when marriage functions as a domestic factory designed to keep wives and husbands chained to the machinery of responsible reproduction, then it should come as no surprise that people find themselves unhappy and listless, looking for a way out.

The fact is, at this point, people get desperate. They take rash action, which often leads to the emotional destruction of their relationship. That is why anything less than complete prostration to the ‚Äúnormal order‚ÄĚ is often considered bad ethics. Recognizing and engaging your own desires is often too dangerous for everyone else. But wait just one second: what kind of life do you really want to live? How much freedom and fulfillment do you deserve to feel? How is it that others are hurt by your desire to express and fulfill your own needs?

What would it look like to have relationships in which there was no need for monogamy?

First, it would necessitate that¬†communication be prized above obedience to social norms.¬†The conditions that foster honesty‚Äďtrust, openness/transperancy, self-awareness‚Äďwould be safeguarded by extensive support structures. Communities would be interlinked by networks of close relationships in which everyone could count on assistance from and intimacy with others, even if the context of one specific relationship changed. There would be no social or legal rewards for any particular relationship format, and no punishments for any format either. We would have to grapple with our own insecurities and overcome them, rather than attempting to limit another‚Äôs autonomy in an attempt¬†to help us feel “safe”. In short, it would demand a strong sense of maturity, and an unbiased sense of responsibility to those people in our inner circle.

It serves the interests of those in power to have everyone separated into couples and nuclear families, with all unions suitably licensed and policed. A divided people is a conquerable people; the fewer ties connecting individuals, and the narrower the range of permissible associations, the better. When you are attached to and responsible for only a handful of people, serving your own self-interest might make sense. On the other hand, when you feel passionately connected with and accountable to an entire community, you are more likely to conceive your interests in collective terms, and better situated to fight for them too.

Like it or not friends, we all have to live on this planet together, and bear the consequences of each other‚Äôs actions:¬†isn’t it¬†high time we start thinking and acting accordingly? Imagine being close and comfortable with everyone around you, engaging emotionally, sexually, and intellectually, working hard to fulfill your own desires, and working just¬†as hard to fulfill the desires of the people¬†you love and care for. I think¬†it sounds like a great way to go about changing the world :). ¬†What do you think‚Ķ? Until next time‚Ķ

Peace.Tobias.