Yes, I made a Willie Nelson DIY wall art piece for my backyard. After hours of mixing water, non-toxic stain, and coffee created the prettiest little piece of wood in the west. Then to top it off with ink, acrylic paint, and wood burning, I made that piece of wood into my little piece of art.
But it wasn’t just a cool quote, it was a little reminder of some advice that I need to follow.
“Be here. Be present. Wherever you are, be there.” ~ Willie Nelson
To me, this applies to when you are focusing on crap in the back of your mind when you should be enjoying your present moment. Or when you are living your life based on past experiences, or out of fear for the future.
Unfortunately, I was blessed with a multitasking brain. I can answer e-mails, edit images, and have a conversation with my dog all at the same time. While at the same time water coloring while images process. I can text a full conversation while having a full conversation with another person (I don’t recommend it, it’s still rude). Wow! What a blessing one might say.
How about no. A multitasking brain is a brain that can’t let shit go.
Add in some depression and anxiety issues I’ve had to fight over the years, and we have a real mess.
How I changed my way of experiencing life
It took me until I read Willie Nelson’s book “The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart” to really understand the concept of being present. 30 years and I figured it was just showing up and paying attention. I am present, I figured. Yes, I was present while I was living my day-to-day life, but I was also using that multitasking brain of mine to think of every God damn rotten thing that had gone on in my life. I would fixate on it. My day would be subconsciously ruined daily but things that had happened, or things that I was scared of happening.
Yes, that’s right, I was ruining my days with this backpack of worry hanging off my back. It made my shoulders ache. It made me tired. And it was a backpack filled with shit that I couldn’t change or do a damn thing about. I would be at Disneyland and instead of focusing on the fact I was with amazing people seeing amazing things… my head is stuck on what happened last month that hurt my feelings and asking myself why it happened.
Think about it. How dumb is that shit?
Upon reading the “The Tao of Willie”, I learned something very valuable. To let go. To just drop the damn backpack of bullshit (B.o.B) off and enjoy the adventure I was on.
“Let go, and you’ll be free to find happiness now.” ~ Willie Nelson
To let go was to focus on my task at hand more deeply. To let go was to really enjoy the performance of a song rather than focusing on a memory that was pulling at my heartstrings subconsciously. Once I told myself I was going to really focus on the moment that I was experiencing right now, I truly realized how little I do let myself focus on enjoyment.
Instead of kissing a man I really had feelings for and really enjoying that beautiful moment, I spent the whole time worrying when he was just going to screw me over like all of them.
Instead of enjoying the people that I was photographing and creating powerful art that represented them, I was going in auto pilot while in my mind also trying to figure out why my ex-best friend turned out to be a total asshole.
Instead of being out having drinks and laughs with friends, I was trying to find the quickest way to shut up my annoying multi tasking brain so I could just feel nothing.
Here I was, an incredibly blessed human being given these amazing experiences and I wasn’t taking them in. I wasn’t cherishing that moment and soaking in each little bit. It was this realization that I knew I needed to really find a way to change this pattern. How do I shut up this damn brain of mine and really focus on the people and things in front of me?
I pulled away from Social Media
Let’s face it – your brain isn’t really functioning too much when you are mindlessly scrolling and liking for hours. I deleted the Facebook app off my phone and vowed to only use it for marketing purposes when I was in my office and in work mode. Instagram was only used when in work mode. Every social media app, except Instagram, was deleted. This was really tough for about two days because I felt like I didn’t know what to do with my brain when standing in line, or sitting in the car, or you know…. any of the other million times I would be on that damn thing in a day.
Yes, I was reading while I was using the apps. Sharing, liking, commenting. But it took so little brain power that there I was thinking about the “text message that came in without an emoji from the cute boy at 3 pm and I wonder if he still likes me? Oh, and should I have really eaten that damn English muffin this morning? So many calories….” You get the point. It’s exhausting.
Once I stopped having anything on my phone to mindlessly scroll through, I started standing in the check out lines and actually looking around again. People started to say “hello” more often and I was able to have random networking conversations wherever I went. And because I was so dedicated to playing with this new game of “being present” I was really focusing on what people were saying to me. I wasn’t ready for a response before they finished anymore because for the first time I was finally listening.
Another great thing that came from turning off my social media except for once a day, is that I spent a whole lot less time comparing my life to others. This alone took a weight off my shoulders that I cannot even describe. No more wondering about other people and constantly being jealous of their awesome amazing internet lives! I was free!
The only downside to this step? I spent a lot of times trying to find new things to observe and soak in while sitting at tables with people who weren’t on the path to being present in the moment.
I started talking about things I really, really am excited about.
Something that I learned the hard way was that the more you talk about something that bothers you, the more your subconscious focuses on it even after the discussion is done. Now you have taken in even more information on this troublesome subject that you have no control over, and you have even more data to fixate on!
Talking about my money stresses. Talking about my broken heart. Talking about my irritation with a girlfriend. Talking about how I am so irritated but this client. Every time I brought it up, the more it would bug me for hours after. The next day I would wake up and now start analyzing the conversation I just had about the thing that irritated me? How ridiculous is that?
So I decided to try something new and crazy in my conversations. Talking about things I love. I started talking about my new art I was working on that I was excited to see it finish. Conversations switched from venting about how annoying my brother was this morning when he left his clothes on the floor AGAIN to how much I was looking forward to the Stagecoach festival I was planning a trip to. Ideas. Goals. Plans. These were the things I talked about with people, rather than my woes. And in turn when my brain was multitasking a bit while bored in line, sure enough, I was focusing on the feelings of excitement and gratitude for my life.
Your words matter. Your thoughts matter. So choose them wisely. And why wouldn’t you want to think about awesome things instead? Even your lunch you are eating is more worth your thoughts and energy then how irritated you are by your job currently.
Talk of your joys, not your sorrows.
I took the time to feel the bad feelings.
This may seem counter intuitive, but turns out it was a key in my success. If you don’t get those feelings and get them out, they are going to stay in that fucking B.o.B on your back and weigh you down from that incredible hike we call life.
So I wrote. I listened to music. I played guitar. I gave myself that alone time with no distractions to give 100% of my attention to these feelings. I examined how I felt about it and allowed myself to grieve or feel angry. I then just let it go. I told myself that I had no control of it, and that as long as I wake up still breathing on this beautiful damn planet, that it will be ok. I then just breathed and let it go. “Breathe from your chest, breathe from your gut, breathe from your heels.” Willie Nelson said in his book. And I did just that while I made the decision to let it go.
Elsa that shit, my friends.
(That was a Frozen reference for those of you who live under a rock).
It’s taken me months to really get this down. This is something I need to keep in check. I still find myself sometimes still going on my phone when at dinner with a loved one, sitting in the car, or just laying in bed at night. I still sometimes will be working out and my brain goes to all of my insecurities rather than pushing myself for the results I know are on the way. But it’s all about catching yourselves in the habits you have that keep self-sabotaging yourself, and slapping yourself on the hand.