Walking into the entrance feels like we are going back in time to Italy, but with a modern, almost Brooklynesque edge. There are fantastic cocktails and unusual cheeses from around the world. The menu is robust and full of delicious offerings. Some with meat, some with light fare and all with unusual cheeses. It far exceeded all our expectations for what a wine & cheese bar should be (in any country and in any place in the world).
It’s the new year and my family and I have a great task at hand. We have strayed from our principles and values and now an epic journey to get our lives back on track is in order. Well, maybe epic is an overstatement, but we certainly have our work cut out for us. And we want to help you get your life back on track just as much as we want to get our lives back on track.
Right now I am on a plane to Ithaca NY, where Rache and I met about 7 years ago, heading to a Zen meditation retreat (called sesshin) that I used to participate in at least twice a year. I am SO happy to be resuming this practice that I reluctantly put on hiatus for 5 years while we raised our kids.
So with committed clarity and intention it is a good time to reflect on where Rache and I were 7 years ago and where we are now. Sometimes, if you find things have gone off the rails, maybe look back at why you have gone astray. Then try to find the positive things you were doing before things started going bad. With a little work and a little guidance, you can get your life back on track. It’s not that hard.
Can you come up with something positive that you are proud of and made you feel good about yourself? Grab hold of that moment and hold it close to your heart. It will help you navigate towards being healthy and loving yourself and your life again.
Healthy Living Gone Astray, and Our Commitment to Get it Back
Over the last few years, inundated in the day to day of raising Iza, who is 5, and Zai, who is 3, and starting a new life in Guatemala and all of the challenges involved in moving to a new country (especially a developing one) we have compromised a lot of our values for convenience and ease. And we are not happy about that.
We both came together in the last few weeks and expressed our trouble with the way we are living and our desire to do better. We suddenly aligned as if by magic or fate and by uniting this way we have set our intention to get our life back on track.
The Beginning of Our Journey
When we first met, I was practicing art and had a side business creating raw food meals and green detoxes for delivery to people that wanted to improve their health. Rache was working for Cornell in the Food and Brand Lab helping to research better ways in which to get healthy food into the hands of students who were not eating well (which in America, is like, all of them).
I was living in a Zen Buddhist center and offering vegan pop up dinners to local folks in Ithaca, NY who loved the vegan lifestyle. She too was mostly vegan and she was practicing yoga along with a diligent exercise routine of running, kayaking and working out in the gym. We were both intent on helping to develop a healthy community and working to assist others interested in getting their lives back on track through healthy eating, meditation and exercise.
But years went by, we moved around a lot, had kids, and ironically we slowly started becoming those people who needed help.
We now (painfully) realize the error of our ways and we have committed ourselves to change. How will we do it? By reengaging Ra’Co Life and wholeheartedly practicing all the values and principles we hold so essential to our lives. Together we can help each other get our lives back on track.
We need to firmly implement these ideals and practices that hopefully will influence how our kids will live the rest of their lives. And we need to create the habits and stick to them so we don’t fall back into old patterns.
This month’s theme at Ra’Co Life is “Getting Our Life Back on Track”, so that is what we are going to do.
How will we do this?
10 Ways We Will Get Our Lives Back on Track
Can you come up with 10 ways to help get your life back on track (which I assume maybe it is if you are reading this)? Rache and I dedicate ourselves to these 10 commitments to start off: (please hold us accountable, we need your help.)
- Each of us has gained 10 pounds (Rache and I, not the kids haha) and we commit to shedding that extra weight.
- We will embrace our vegetarian and 50% raw (Ra) food diet and 50% cooked (Co) food diet.
- We will build our healthy community, both locally and online, and share everything we learn through this website and blog.
- We vow to be nicer to each other and find more thoughtful ways of speaking to each other and embracing our differences.
- We will volunteer and give to our community, especially those who are in dire need and are struggling just to get by every day.
- We will increase our knowledge through reading (ebooks and audio books) and engaging in meaningful discussions and collaborations with those who have knowledge to share.
- We will commit ourselves to the practices of mindfulness and meditation so we can be more thoughtful, more compassionate and more empathetic.
- We will forgive those that have caused us trouble so we can let go of that baggage that does nothing for us but weigh us down.
- We will save money, stay debt free and live minimal and frugal lives.
- We will commit dedicated (and digital free!) time to each other every day as a family and engage in meaningful discussions and activities.
There are many more things Rache and I can do to get our lives on track, but these are 10 big ones to start with. As they say here in Guatemala, poco a poco (little by little).
Change Starts Now
We all have within us the ability to change our lives if we desire, no matter how elusive and difficult that change may seem. But there comes a time when the desire to change becomes so powerful and all pervasive that we cannot shake it no matter how bad we want to continue with our old nasty habits.
When this force arises within us we must embrace and use that power while it is the most potent. At this point there is no time to wait. Now is the time for action.
Getting Over Fear and What Holds Us Back
For me, beyond the 10 points of change that I called out above, I commit to building a fire within myself to move my art career forward towards helping others in some way. And I commit to further develop the passion and ambition to succeed, for myself, for my family and for others. All my life I have struggled with self-doubt, depression and fear that I could never make this work and make a great living from my art.
These things have held me back, and now I know that I have to move beyond these fears, face them, and use them as power to further motivate me toward success. Now is the time, because if it doesn’t develop, then I will have to move on and do something else. And this is not acceptable. I strongly believe I have too much to give and share with the world.
Finding Your Passion
I am extremely lucky to have found my passion early on. What is your passion?
The more I read, the more I come to understand it helps to find and embrace our core motivators and do them.
No matter what stands in the way, we have to go beyond ourselves and dig in deep to move forward and do something we know must do. These needs are within all of us, we just have to get out of our own way, and get on with our life’s work to benefit ourselves and those around us.
Sunrise, a new day at the Ithaca Zen Center.
Read, Read Read
Many of the books I have been listening to and reading lately speak to our need to find our passion and embrace and nurture that inner desire and to finally begin to do what we were meant to do. There are arguments against this such as written by Cal Newport in So Good They Can’t Ignore You, which I encourage people to read, but I believe finding your passion is a very good way of setting yourself up for a career with which you can support yourself and keep your mind calm and clear, which is the most important thing we can do for ourselves.
Actually, find work that is meaningful and helps people and puts you in service to others. That is truly the best way to find happiness in this world.
These books help me to push forward and finally take action and are relentless in my pursuit to express myself and do my tiny little part to create change in a world that so desperately needs it right now.
Below is a list of 5 books that I am reading right now that may help you find your purpose and take action to create a better life for yourself (or at least a clear mind) if you have the burning need to do so. I am no different than you. I feel like my journey is just beginning.
Let’s do this together and help push each other forward to find our meaning and do our life’s work.
- Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins
- The Power of Purpose by Les Brown
- Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
- Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
- Creative Quest by Questlove
The first, “Real Artists Don’t Starve”, is by Jeff Goins, a fantastic and well known motivational writer. Judging from the title, it is obvious why I am reading it. Being an artist that is struggling to sell work and often getting down on myself because of that struggle, I need some strong words to help me keep going and find ways to make this work.
This book provides the encouragement and some great ideas on how to keep going, stay positive and make my business thrive.
The second is by a very well known motivational speaker named Les Brown. Normally I would not read these types of books as I find they contradict some of my values developed through Zen practice. These motivational books often push the idea of finding and doing whatever it takes to achieve and be successful in order to feel good about yourself. They have the best intentions and are actually great books and writers, But Zen practice, in my view, says that success is not the way to happiness and that there is no lasting happiness to be found outside of our inner being, our deeper true nature.
Zen says we should practice and develop our minds (through meditation) to understand how the universe functions and to realize there is something that exists beyond what we perceive as a separate self.
We must realize that we are not separate from that which exists around us and we have to discover that we are all part of this single universal consciousness.
And the realization of this “true nature” is so far beyond any type of happiness we can achieve through external means. Having had certain moments in meditation that helped me understand this, I know I am absolutely sure this is true.
Nonetheless, I find Les’ words inspiring when I’m feeling down and ready to give up.
Relating to my discussion above on Zen, I always relish the words of Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. He explains these concepts far better than I could ever begin to. So if you are curious and want to know more about Zen practice then this book is the place to start.
My life has been in and out of Zen temples and I have practiced meditation for years. But my path, I realized, was to live in the world and have a family and practice this way. And I made the right choice. Family life has helped me see beyond myself (Check out this short article on the challenges of family life) Even so I find myself lacking in certain worldly skills like developing ambition and finding ways to have a successful career and family life. I have to learn to live in this world, as do all of us, and we know that nothing in this world comes easily.
Another book I want to recommend is by David Goggins and it really gave me a swift kick in the ass and woke me up to some things I have been missing in my life. If you haven’t read this book, it’s outrageously good and pretty much guarantees to inspire motivation and action. Overall, I like what he says about the need to push ourselves and go beyond what we think we are capable of. I prefer to push myself and improve myself little by little rather than a full onslaught on complacency and mediocrity like he does. But either way there are some excellent principles and ideas in this book that are guaranteed to inspire you to move.
Keeping it Together Through Creativity
The last book I want to recommend is by one of my generation’s most creative forces, Questlove. Here is an amazing exploration of what creativity is to him and how he goes about coming up with ideas, making things and expressing himself. There is really no other book like it.
If you feel like you need to get your life back on track, I highly encourage you to find creative endeavors and start making something, no matter it is. I have been a creative all of my life, and I know that expressing myself has been one of the most important and essential ways to navigate this world when I feel I have gone off course. We are all creative beings, and during hard times making things can be one of the best ways to keep us going. Whether it be music, painting, sewing, carpentry, dance…you name it, your creative hobbies can save you.
Balance and Getting Our Lives Back on Track
Reading is a great way to help get you motivated and on the right track. Making commitments is also essential to help us create change. The next step is to find a way to motivate ourselves that will enable us to develop positive habits and not over commit or under commit to making change.
Enter the balance of Ra’Co Life. (like this short article on our work/life balance) I want to find a way to navigate this life (that often seems so backwards and ridiculous) and balance my actions in a way that enables me to always respect my mind and know that happiness doesn’t exist in the external world, but exists within. This is a challenge all of us must embrace and practice. So in the coming weeks I want to explore how to find this balance and share my discoveries with you.
Dry January, Hold the Booze Thank You
Another way we have decided to get our lives back on track here at Ra’Co Life is to put aside the booze for January. Rache and I, along with our many other bad habits, have been leaning on the alcohol too heavily over the last couple of years. Drinking too much is a progressive illness and we have definitely seen it creep up on us over time.
So if you are having the same kind of problem, maybe make an effort to take a month off, really push it through and see what happens. What I have noticed during this alcohol free month is that I am sleeping better and I am far more patient with Iza and Zai when they are acting crazy, which is pretty much all of the time (seems like it, but not really).
Check out what the guys at Dry January are doing to help people get away from their habitual alcohol use. https://alcoholchange.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/dry-january.
And please visit this link to self.com to get all kinds of great information on why getting off alcohol can really change your life for the better.
I have to say that being dry for January has really helped me stay motivated and get my life back on track. I’m not sure how Rache is doing with this, I was traveling the first two weeks of the month and she is now off to Vegas for her monthly commute. Judging from photos that popped up in my photo stream, I get the feeling she may have back slid a little! We shall see.
The main thing I want to say with all of this is that I am extremely excited to reengage Ra’Co Life to help facilitate Rache and I coming together and getting motivated to get healthier and make some very important and needed changes in our lives.
And I hope you too are excited about starting off the new year right and taking action like we are to make this a great 2019. Whether you are committing to reading more, drinking less, eating better or just being a nicer calmer person, I truly wish you success in all your healthy endeavors to lead a more balanced life. Ra’Co on!