To Be Seduced by Life…

It may sound weird, but I believe certain influences – people, books, ideas – come into our lives exactly when we need them. These influences can change us in ways we never imagined.

My first experience with this was when I read “The Power of Now” in the summer of 2013. That book helped lift me up from a sea of misery and unconsciousness. My next experience was barely six months later when I came across “The Alabaster Girl” by Zan Perrion. It’s this experience that I want to talk about here.

A Very Important Year

My senior year of college was a very interesting one for me. When I returned home from studying in Madrid three months earlier, I was consumed by wanderlust. But the reality of my last year as a student quickly pushed thoughts of travel and adventure to the back of my mind. Being a senior meant it was time convert those years of academic stress into a high-paying job, and most of my friends and peers seemed dedicated to that cause. Days into the first semester I was already hearing talk of job applications and potential interviews. The pressure was on.

That pressure did little to motivate me, though. Despite the urgent and practical nature of getting a good job, I felt absolutely zero passion for that goal. Actually, I felt the opposite of passion. Getting a typical job sounded like a straight bore.

At the time, I was convinced that my lack of enthusiasm for finding a job was just a sign of laziness, and there might have been some truth to that. The thought of sitting in an office and trying to focus for eight hours a day gave me the chills. However, my core problem was one of passion. Looking at all the jobs I could apply to, there wasn’t a single one that inspired the slightest bit of excitement in me. And in the back of my mind, I could feel the desire to see the world nagging at me.

The Spark that Lit the Fire

I read “The Alabaster Girl” about halfway through my senior year. Ironically, my motivations for reading it were not at all related to finding passion in my life. The author, Zan Perrion, was a well-known dating coach, and all I was expecting were some tips on how to meet women. What I found was something entirely different.

It’s hard to say what the book’s main theme is. It centers around the author’s profound love for women and seduction, but themes of beauty, passion, and the spirit of adventure are interwoven throughout. I guess you could describe it as a wise man’s musings on what it means to live a truly magical life. Women just happen to be the primary source of magic for the author.

While I did resonate with Perrion’s talk of romance and seduction, it was his views on beauty that really struck a chord with me. “Beauty needs a witness,” he repeats throughout the book, and in describing his worldview he paints a picture of a man entirely in love with life and all the beauty it has to offer.

I had never given beauty a second thought before reading that book. I could recognize it when I saw it (at least I thought so) but it wasn’t something I ever sought out. Maybe it was his flowery style of writing or just the conviction behind his words, but as I read I felt something awakening inside of me. It was what I felt during my time in Madrid, but hadn’t been able to identify. It was the desire for a life filled with beauty, passion, and adventure. The desire to be utterly seduced by life.

From there, I knew that going the typical job route was no longer an option. I wanted something out of life that a 9-5 could never give me, and I would do whatever it took to find it. Why not find a way to move back to Spain? Yeah, that seemed like a good enough plan.

Three years have passed since that decision, and I’m living in Spain like I wanted to. But I’d be lying if I said the desire for a life filled with beauty and passion was my prime motivator for the past couple of years. Somewhere along the way, that romantic vision got pushed to the back of my mind. I started, once again, to view life as a race to be won instead of a journey to be enjoyed. Achievement and success became my primary focuses. All this time abroad, surrounded by so much beauty, and I’ failed to truly appreciate it.

Adjusting My Sails

I want to reconnect with my desire to be seduced by life and all the beauty it has to offer.

How do I do this? Well, just like I mentioned in my post on true north principles, the most important thing I can do is commit to the vision that drove me abroad in the first place. That means slowing down and looking deep within, not letting my surface level desires for achievement and success distract me from my core desire for a life filled with beauty and passion.

I also want to start using this blog as a place to develop and share my vision. It’s time for “An Appetite for Beauty” to live up to its name.

 

 

Where Did the Beauty Go?

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“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Lately my life has felt relatively void of beauty. Considering this is a blog about the quest for beauty in my life, I’m not overjoyed about this fact.

It would be easy for me to blame it on the recent changes in my life situation. When I started this blog I was living in San Sebastian, a beautiful beach city in Spain. I spent my days reading and writing in cafes, traveling around the country, and meeting new people. Then there was the architecture…How can there be so much beautiful architecture in one country?

Now I’m back home, and I spend most of my time in a routine, going to work in a small city and then coming back home. I may occasionally slip in some yoga on the beach or a game of basketball but that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have a bad living situation; but it’s a far cry from my life in Spain.

Yet in my heart I know my external situation is not to blame for the perceived lack of beauty in my life. I firmly believe that beauty can be found in any situation, as long as I’m willing to look for it.

So why have I been struggling so much then? Am I just not looking hard enough? Is this an issue of work ethic?

I don’t think so. But it’s possible I’m using the wrong strategy to find beauty in my life.

My normal approach to seeking beauty has been to wait for the inspiration to strike and ride the wave as long as I can. This was easy to do in Spain. The sense of adventure that came from moving across the world made everything seem magical. Not only was I surrounded by new and exciting things, I felt a sense of freedom being on my own out there.

Unfortunately, inspiration is a fickle thing, and since I’ve been back home it has rarely shown itself.

There have been recent glimmers of hope though. Since renewing my focus on mindfulness meditation and being present to the moment, glimpses of beauty have started to reemerge in my life.

It’s nothing like how it was when I was abroad; my rose-colored glasses rarely stay on for more than a few moments. But I’m starting to notice a trend: those glimpses of beauty last about as long as I’m able to stay present to the moment. Once my mind shifts back into thinking mode the beauty is gone.

I think part of my problem is that I’ve been looking at beauty the wrong way. This whole time I’ve thought of it as something that has to be sought out. But what if instead of going out of my way to search for it, I just need to change the lenses through which I’m seeing the world? And by that I simply mean becoming present to the moment.

One of the reasons I’m so enamored with being present to the moment is that I’ve experienced the power it has to instantly transform my life.

I can still recall those first few times I made an effort to observe my thoughts. It felt as if there was a dimmer switch in my head that I never knew about. For years I had been living in a dark haze of thoughts and emotions, believing that reality couldn’t get any brighter. But as soon as I took that mental step back and watched what was going on in my head….it was like I turned the brightness all the way up in my life. Everything around me – people, nature, even inanimate objects – became more vibrant.

In the brief moments I was present I started to notice new details in my surroundings. Music began to sound a little better. I could connect with people on a deeper level. When taking action I could get in a flow state much easier.

That’s the power of being present. And it’s only natural that in a state like that, seeing the beauty in the world becomes automatic.

So from here on out I’m shifting my focus.

Instead of worrying so much about looking for beauty, I’m going to first start cultivating a state of mind that can perceive it. This means focusing on being present in each moment. Because how could I possibly expect to find beauty in the moment if my full attention isn’t even on it?

The Beauty of Gratitude

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I’ll be turning 24 at the end of this month. While I definitely don’t feel old, it’s startling to think about how fast time has gone by. It feels like only yesterday I was moving from California to North Carolina to begin my college career. Everything was so uncertain back then. I couldn’t even imagine a future beyond the huge transition in front of me. Now here I am six years later, living in a foreign country, still uncertain about the future but much more content with that uncertainty.

Looking back on the past 23 years, it’s not the struggles and the painful moments that stand out to me. Sure, they’re there for me to see, for me to reflect on. But they don’t hold my attention like they once did. Instead I’m enamored by the countless blessings in my life.

I was, and still am, spoiled like crazy by a loving family. I had a carefree college experience and partied to my hearts content. I felt deep and passionate love. I formed friendships that will probably last a lifetime. I traveled to foreign lands and I’m currently living it up in Spain, working a mere 12 hours per week while living comfortably.

The list goes on and on.

I don’t say all of this to brag or to make my life seem like it’s better than anyone else’s. I just feel like I have a lot of making up to do in the gratitude department. Despite the fact that my life has been nothing short of amazing, I was blind to it for the longest time.

I bitched. I moaned. I walked around with a “whoa is me” attitude, angry at the world because of everything I didn’t have. To be honest, I still act like that sometimes. Those aren’t my best moments and I’m determined to eradicate that kind of behavior from my life.

Since starting this blog, I’m beginning to see that so much of the beauty I’m searching for in life comes from gratitude. Regardless of what mood I’m in, when I pause and consciously choose to be grateful for everything around me, even for the mere fact that I’m alive and healthy, the world seems to radiate a whole new beauty.

It’s almost crazy how much my perspective can change in a matter of seconds. Seemingly boring moments become precious seconds. Packed, uncomfortable train rides turn into a enjoyable part of my journey abroad. Lonely nights become the foundation for a rock-solid inner peace. Like alchemy, gratitude has the power to turn every little thing, whether good or bad, into gold.

It’s not just about beauty though. For a long time I associated gratitude with softness. I saw it as one of those feel-good messages that couldn’t really help you achieve anything in life. But that’s not accurate at all.

I recently watch an episode of Gary Vaynerchuk’s ‘#AskGaryVee’ show where somebody asked him how he finds the motivation to work so hard every day (if you haven’t heard of him, Gary Vaynerchuk is a successful entrepreneur and a damn good motivational speaker). He basically said that gratitude is what fuels him; gratitude for everything he has and the fact that he is able go out and do what he loves every single day.

After hearing that I thought back to all the times in my life when I gave into laziness and apathy. The times I made excuse after excuse for why I wasn’t going after my dreams. It’s frustrating to admit, but those moments were really a failure on my part to be grateful for the fact that I was alive and healthy, that I already had everything I needed to go out and create the life I desired. I took each day, each blessing, each opportunity for granted. That’s a mistake I’m determined to never make again. I want to view every day for what it really is: a gift, wrapped up with a big beautiful bow on top.

So there it is. I’m making a commitment to gratitude. Not just to thinking about it, or even talking about it. I’m making a commitment to act on it. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I look forward to sharing my progress with you.

Comment below and let me know how gratitude has played a role in your life!