I’m on day 9 of 100 in my quest to making meditation an integral part of my daily routine. At just shy of 10%, I have already learned a lot that will inform the next 90. I’m going to walk through what I’m planning to draw upon, from most concrete to most abstract.

1. Tools matter.

meditation-progress-sam-killermannThere’s this famous Audre Lorde quote that gets tossed around a lot in the social justice activism spaces I occupy: “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Folks generally take it to mean that you can’t undo a harmful system using components that support that harmful system, or by working within that system.

There are lots and lots of debates about that quote, and you can read them (or we could get into them another time), but for now it’s the second part of the quote that I am appealing to (the part that is often omitted): “They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”

It’s this idea, that the master’s tools may temporarily allow us to be him at his own game, that I’ve found to be particularly salient this past week. Indeed, I’ve managed to turn just about every thing in my life that led me to mindlessness into a tool to help me practice mindfulness.Keep Reading

It’s gotten far easier to allow ourselves to hate than it is to choose to love.

We’re getting it from all sides. Controversy sells better than sex, and when you combine the two you have pretty much every magazine you see in the grocery store check-out line. We’re told to be terrified by our news people, that message is reaffirmed by our Facebook friends, and then we bring those messages into our social circle echo chambers and bounce them around. Don’t rinse. Repeat.

If you’re “conservative” you’re reminded on an hourly basis how the “liberals” are evil and actively working to undermine civilization. If you’re “liberal,” ditto the opposite. The actual ingredients of the message change daily, weekly, monthly, but the recipe has been the same for over a dozen years: exploit ignorance using fear, reintroduce fear byproduct to perpetuate ignorance. Create distrust, and through that distrust breed dependence on You as the Sole Trustable Message. Create a small “Us” and emphasize how big and nefarious of a “Them” we’re up against.

We need need to make a bigger Us, and a smaller Them.

We need to stop exploiting and demonizing ignorance, and start celebrating it as an opportunity for learning, expanding one’s perspective, and increasing one’s connection to others. Ignorance isn’t a bad thing. We’re all ignorant about a lot of things, and all started out entirely ignorant to whatever we think we know so much about now. Willful ignorance, something we’re encouraging with our demonizing of ignorance, is dangerous. If you beat someone back into a hole enough, they’ll stop trying to come out and start realizing how nice it is in their hole.

You Have a Choice

It’s comforting, sometimes, to think of the world as black and white, easily understood, where there is one “right” and one “wrong.” If someone does/is/believes X, then they are Right, they are on my side, we’re buds, I love them, let’s hug. If someone does/is/believes Y, they are Wrong and I hate them and wish they were dead dead dead. This is a nice, dualistic, simple way of thinking about things. Unfortunately (and fortunately!), the world allows for a mangled, cognitively complex, complicated way of thinking about things. And, among the myriad choices in life you have, one of them is whether you’ll embrace the comforting, misleadingly simple white/black of dualism, or the uncomfortably accurate grey of cognitive complexity.

You obviously have more choices than that. In fact, the choices at your disposal are limited only by your imagination and caffeine intake. But in the spirit of embracing the comfort of dualistic thinking while nudging toward cognitive complexity, here are two BIG choices we all have in how we act toward others:

We Can Keep Allowing Ourselves to Hate

The people we don’t understand; the people we think we disagree with; the people we know we disagree with; people whose belief systems are different from ours, or harmful, or wrong, or weird; people who have done bad things; people who aren’t nice to us, or don’t love us, or hate us; people who are part of Them, not one of Us.

Or We Can Start Choosing to Love

The people in the last paragraph, as well as everyone else. We can recognize our power of choice, understand that understanding can be more fruitful than willful ignorance, and start to believe that it’s possible that if we allow and encourage people to come out of their holes they might like it more out here (even though it will be scary at first, but that’s why we’re here to help).

Everyone doesn’t need to have the same beliefs, we just need to start believing in everyone.

Choose to Love

If this is sounding like something you want to get onboard with, here are the sometimes-daily steps I run through in my effort to choose to love more, and allow myself to hate less:

  1. Remind myself, first and foremost, that I do have a choice. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react that matters” or however that Epictetus quote goes. No matter how horrible, nefarious, or Disney-villain-evil someone seems (or is), I choose how I will make sense of that an act.
  2. Try to find the good. And I mean actually find it. Don’t trick myself into believing something about the person is good “Well, they said they hate gay people but that’s only because they love families — families are cool.” There’s likely genuinely something about this person you’ll deem good, if so, great! If not…
  3. Try to understand the bad. This requires asking the person questions and actually listening to the answers, not just listening for your cue to jump in and destroy them. Sometimes just asking those questions (a lot of “why?” questions — that they may’ve never been asked with genuine curiosity) will be enough, and the person will realize how dualistic they were viewing things. But even when it doesn’t, it’ll help you realize how dualistically you’re viewing them.
  4. Now, forget about all of that and remember what your goal is. Your goal is to choose to love this person, and the goal of that is to create mutual understanding of one another, your differing perspectives, and hopefully replace fear with respect (or at least unfear). To do that it doesn’t matter if you can’t find any Good and you can’t understand any of their Bad.
  5. Replace the Courtroom in your head with an Elementary School Art Teacher. We are so often the prosecuting attorney, defense, judge, and jury in these elaborate cases we play out in our heads when determining someone as Good or Bad. Instead, be more like your art teacher from elementary school and give the kid who painted a beautiful, almost photorealistic sunset the same grade as the kid who ate glue and created a color abomination that only makes sense to a kid who is super high on glue.
  6. Choose to love. It’s usually harder to choose to love than to allow yourself to hate, but like with other hard choices (“Should I get up after my first alarm or stay in bed for the rest of my life forever until I die?”) it’ll do you more good. And it gets easier if you work to make it a habit.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

***

Incidentally, my friend slash wonderful person I look up to a great deal, Kevin Wanzer, named his LLC “Choose to Love” after a poem he wrote (that he published as an illustrated book). Please don’t consider this article to be affiliated with or an endorsement of Kevin and his work — it’s just coincidence in phrasing and a shared philosophy we have. But please consider this is an endorsement of Kevin and his work: buy his book, bring him to your campus/org to speak, and tell everyone you know about both.

I work on the internet. Even now, in The Year Two-Thousand Fourteen, I have to describe what I do with those five words. A talk I heard recently by Heather Corinna, another person who works on the internet, who spoke about working on the internet, was a reminder of this for me, as I found myself relating to everything she said. Five words still when it should really be two:

I work.

“On the internet” means a ton of things to a ton of different people. “That’s so techy” or “my, how quickly things change!” often translates to me as “ARE YOU FROM THE FUTURE?”

For some people “on the internet” undoes the “I work” part: “Oh, neat, yeah, but what’s your real job?”

This is my real job.

We live in the future, people. There are no flying cars (soon! wanna go halfsies?), but there are shabbily-dressed people working on laptops in coffee shops. The future is here, and it’s unshaven. The only reason we’re still making the “on the internet” distinction is because of the [sometimes willful] ignorance about what the world looks like and how much things have changed in a short amount of time.

If you want to play catch up (please, do not think any of what I’m suggesting here is anywhere near the cutting edge), let me share with you a few starter steps for working on the internet.Keep Reading

Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club introduced me to the term “single-serving friend,” a person who is your friend for a short period in time. In the movie, he’s talking about the people he meets on flights (“everything on a plane is single-serving”).

As someone who travels a lot, I’ve had the opportunities to make a lot of single-serving friends in the past few years. Sometimes it’s a few hours on a plane, and sometimes it’s a couple of days if I’m in a town for a conference or series of shows. For a long time I thought, like Norton’s character in Fight Club, that a single-serving friend was someone you only interacted with during that one short time period, greatly enjoyed one another’s company, then never saw each other again.

But that’s silly.

I’ve met some of the most fascinating, encouraging, inspirational, clever, and all-around sparkly people I may ever know when I’ve been traveling. To limit our connection to that hour, day, or week is more than a bummer — it’s life sabotage. “I really wish you lived here” is a common sentiment. Long distance relationships are hard, if not impossible. People have overfull lives. They don’t have room for a Sam from thousands of miles away. Or at least that’s how I thought of it for a long while.

I’ve changed the way that I think about single-serving friends.

Instead of viewing the friendship as single-serving, something that only exists for that one moment in time, I now think about that experience with that person as single-serving, with the hope and intent that we might have opportunities for future experiences together, even if they are similarly single-serving. We don’t need to maintain contact, be pen pals, or talk every day, but I like the idea of keeping the door (or inbox) open. This change has led to some really wonderful relationships, with folks near and far, that I deeply value. It’s also changed the way that I interact with folks on the road.

Knowing that I can have a meaningful single-serving friendship with someone means that I am more willing to have real conversations with people I meet on the road. Conversations about things that matter to them and to me, or to us — look at that: we just became an us. Instead of talking about the weather, or some stupid sports thing I don’t actually care about, we talk about life, in all of its wonderful fragments and facets. And talking about life, and hearing other people’s perspectives on life, helps me be better at life.

The possibility of a single-serving friendship also creates the possibility of real, meaningful connection to people I would have otherwise never allowed myself to connect to. And the more I connect, the more I want to connect. Connecting feels good. Wanting to connect more is a good habit to form. Connected life is a loving life.

If you’re digging the idea of single-serving friends, but aren’t sure where to start, or how to do it, here are a few humble tips:

  • Be clear up front. If you want to stay connected with someone, tell them. Ask if that’s okay. Explain what you mean.
  • Don’t force it. One of my best friends in the world is someone I only chat with or see a few times a year, but when we do, we’re immediately best friends again. That’s how our relationship works. It works that way because we’ve allowed it to be that way and haven’t tried to force it to be something it’s not. Feel it out.
  • Hugs are good. If you’re a hugger.
  • Phone numbers are better than emails are better than Facebooks are better than Twitters. Social media is a great way to disconnect from people. Let them tell you directly what they want to tell you about their life. Do the same.
  • Be no-holds-barred honest. We all lie more than we likely realize. Single-serving friendships can be amazing in that you have never told the person a lie (where most of the long-term or more high-contact friends you likely lie to inadvertently dozens of times a week). You don’t have to “protect” them with white lies, and you don’t need to puffer yourself into something you’re not. You can be blissfully, heart-relievingly honest. And it’s fantastic.
  • High fives are good. In case you’re not a hugger.

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve generally had the perspective of Mr. Twain. But that’s because resolutions are so commonly things that won’t actually improve someone’s life, or (and especially) the lives of others in their life. But what if we all had the same New Year’s resolutions, and were able to hold one another mutually accountable, and they improved our lives and the lives of those in our lives?

If a genie gave me just one wish… I would wish for infinite hummus. Sorry. But if I was lucky enough to stumble upon another genie, my wish would be for everyone to make these New Year’s Resolutions (ya know, in case treating every day like Christmas isn’t your style). I believe in the power of individuals, and we can change the world one person at a time for the better. But it starts with changing our individual worlds. So, Mark Twain be damned, this year I resolve to:

  1. Realize that I’m incredibly fortunate. Even when things seem like they can’t get worse, and I think the whole world is against me, the simple fact that I’m able to be unhappy is a byproduct of the fortune of being given that opportunity to be unhappy.
  2. Be grateful for what I have. I don’t have much, but I have plenty. Flipping a switch and having lights come on, for example, is pretty freaking awesome. I want to remind myself to be more thankful for those things, every day.
  3. Want less, and learn to want to give more. Giving is happiness.
  4. Understand that it’s okay not to be happy all the time. And to affirm others in understanding this. Life has ups and downs and lefts and wrongs. It’s okay to not be happy — it just makes happy even better when I get it.
  5. Appreciate aloneness. To not freak out, to make the most of the peace, and to remember that being alone isn’t the same as being lonely.
  6. Love more and judge less. “This goes for loving yourself, too, Mister!” I yell at myself, judgmentally, because I know that I’m far more likely to love and avoid judging another person. I can definitely do more loving of myself and others, and less judging of myself and others.
  7. Eat less food that makes me feel like garbage. Yeah, it tastes good in the moment, but I’d bet heroin feels pretty good, and you don’t see me eating that every weekend.
  8. Move my body more. Sitting is bad, and I do it too much. I don’t enjoy exercising, but I want to learn to enjoy it. When I nudge myself to do it, I almost always enjoy it. I’m going to do that more.
  9. Put myself in unknown situations. Comfort is good, but growth comes from challenge. I’m going to seek out unknown situations, read things I may not have otherwise read, talk to people I may have otherwise ignored.
  10. Treat individual human beings as individual human beings. Don’t allow myself to track my mud into their houses, or the mud that someone else who may have looked like/sounded like/smelled like them do the same.
  11. Not let my pride stand between me and something or someone. It doesn’t matter what the “principle” of the matter was, or all the other bullshit excuses I use. What matters is what I want to happen in the future, and whether I’m willing to circumvent pride to make it happen.
  12. Sweep before my own door first. To remember that I’m not helping any one — as a hard worker, friend, partner, etc. — if I’m not taking care of myself. I need to be my own friend first.

If you’re up for this challenge, let me know. Or share the list with a friend as a friendly challenge. We can be one another’s accountabilibuddies. Gosh, I love spelling that word.

Christmas Time is a few weeks, or days, or months, when a lot of us change the ways we approach our life and the people in it. There are a lot of positive things that are part of that shift; things that would likely make the rest of us our year a bit more merry if we were intentional about them all 12 months. The first item in the Code of Elves, after all, is “Treat every day like Christmas.” Here are some ways to treat every day like Christmas:

  1. Focus on what you can give to others to make them happier. And focus less on taking or giving to ourselves. Giving and making others happy will make you happy.
  2. Be extremely grateful when a restaurant or store is open. Be grateful they are allowing you to give them money for things you want. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
  3. Sleep in a bit. Snowflake pajamas or jazzy socks optional.
  4. Cook more, and put your heart into it. Microwave and order out less.
  5. Spend time with people you care about. Even if it takes a bit of work, or it’s cold, or you kinda hate them, or they smell, or they’re a cotton-headed ninny muggins.
  6. Drink wine. You know, for your heart.
  7. Play. With a kid. With yourself. Whichever. Just not both at the same time.
  8. Open a present every morning with the enthusiasm of a four-year-old kid unwrapping a present. Which present? How about the present? The gift of a new day! (Too corny? Really? C’mon. I thought that was prett — okay, whatever.)
  9. Find ways to laugh. Even if you think a joke is corny. Stop being so damned bitter all the time. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Jerk.
  10. Give more hugs. Or, if it’s more your style, do it on your twin bed. Either way, touch [with consent] more people.
  11. Touch more people (In the figurative sense). Give nice cards, say nice things, express your thanks, peace on earth, good will toward man, the whole kit and caboodle.
  12. Eat chocolate. You know, for your heart.
  13. Watch feel-good movies. Or feel-good videos on the internet, or have feel-good conversations. Feel-good = feel good. You are what your mind eats.
  14. Be conscious of the memories you’re making. And take some photos [with consent].

Have more ideas on how we can live more positively by treating every day like Christmas? Share them with me on Twitter!

Kidding. 100 would be a bit excessive, and likely more than a bit counterintuitive, wouldn’t it? It’s easy for us to be seduced by a lot, and to think that more is better, but we rarely need more than a little. More leads to wanting more; wanting more is insatiable. Like that Hamlet quote above — one of my all-time favs. More begets more.

Minimalism is happiness. Here’re all the tips you need for living minimally:

  • want less, focus on what you need more
  • have less, appreciate what you have more
  • do less, invest in what you do more
  • know less, wonder more

Mindfulness is happiness. But you already know that. But what is mindfulness, beyond the abstract definition of “attentive, aware, or careful” that I gave in that other article? Being more mindful means tapping into all of your senses. If you’re more of a concrete person, here are a bunch of examples of how you can live a more mindful life.

These are things I try to be mindful of every day. I’m hoping that by writing them down, in addition to helping clarify things for you, they will make them more second nature to me. I bolded the ones I’m working on the most right now.

  • Do one thing at a time. If you’re on your phone, be on your phone. If you’re watching TV, watch TV. If you’re eating, eat. If you’re spending time with your friend, spend time with you’re friend. But try not to be on your phone while watching TV, eating, and calling it friend time, or you’re robbing yourself of all four experiences.
  • Turn everything off, at least once a day, for at least a few minutes.
  • Hear.
  • Eat slowly. Chew slowly. Smell your food. Enjoy the texture. Bite by bite.
  • Check in to your body parts. Where are your hands, how tense are your shoulders, knees, and toes. Flex all of your muscles in your entire body, then relax them.
  • Feel your feet in your shoes and the ground beneath them when you walk.
  • Walk slowly.
  • When you wake up, spend 15 – 30 minutes planning your day. Spend the rest of your day living it.
  • Breathe deeply. Exhale slowly.
  • Check in to your mind. What are you thinking about and why? Let those feelings go.
  • Take note of what makes you want to feel happiness, anger, surprise, disgust, contempt, and fear. Write these things down throughout your day if you have a hard time remembering.
  • Focus on what you have in this instant — in experiences, relationships, and possessions.
  • Smell more things, but not in a creepy way.
  • Stretch.
  • Stand up straight (okay, Mom).
  • If you’re walking or riding (car, bus, train, plane), take in the sights. Even if you’re in a place you’ve been a thousand times. Take in the sights.
  • If you’re driving, focus on the sights in front of you. You know, to not die.
  • Touch things (consenting things, or inanimate things, please).
  • Notice light. Notice color. Notice shape.
  • Live right now. In this moment. This oneNot that last one — it’s over. Don’t worry about the next ones that might be coming — they’ll get here. Live in this one.

Have any tips for living mindfully? Please please please let me know. I’d like to hear them for myself, but also to add the to this list for others.

I talk about the 25/25/50 rule, which is how I’ve learned everything I know, from web design/development to stand up comedy, German to animation, and other ridiculous things to know to other things I know.

Podcast is now available on iTunes, so check that out.

If you want to get a copy of my book, The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender, go here: www.guidetogender.com

Here’s a link to the No Excuse List, which gives you an e-version to learn just about anything you’d want to learn, for free: noexcuselist.com/

Here’s a link to the United Gamers Coalition 2013 Gamerunning Marathon I’ll be participating in this weekend for GAB: gamersagainstbigotry.org/ugc

And huge thanks (again!) to Rustik Jamz for the music. Check them out: @rustik-jamz