All Posts by Touching the Trail

“Humanity evolves not because of physical need, but because of spiritual need.”

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The stressors of life are like a wave: you can easily be pummeled and pulled under. However, you have it within your power to break free of the imprisonment that is caused by allowing yourself to be chained to your stressors and distractions. One of the tools you can employ to break free is preparation. I always say ‘prepare for the future, learn from the past, but live in the present’ and practicing to follow this saying is a daily process. Each week you have the opportunity to prepare for what is to come and, therefore, provide yourself a greater peace of mind. That is what preparation does: provide you confidence in your ability to weather the ebb and flow of life. That confidence, in turn, provides a greater degree of happiness. Listen in as I delve into how to be happier through planning better.

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Sometimes when life does not go in the planned direction that change of course can become a gift, instead of a curse. I have spent the majority of my running career using races as the barometer for my success and ability in running far. This year’s busyness and additional responsibilities helped me to realize that not only is racing not always possible, but sometimes it just isn’t smart. After recently having an upcoming race canceled on me I realized that I should take the time given to me to focus on other aspects of running that I haven’t explored before. The idea of engaging in self-powered adventures, employing a bicycle, my running ability, and possibly even my climbing skills, has always fascinated me. Acknowledging that races are not everything I have made it my mission to focus on those human-powered adventures in the months to come. This focus will allow me to broaden my creative skills in exploring the world around me in new and interesting ways, all from my front door and back again. It is vital that we take the unexpectedness of life and do our best to learn from it. Which is exactly what running has taught me: take it one step at a time.

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By building, and committing to, a routine we teach ourselves how to endure challenging times and be present amongst positive times. Along the wild ride that 150 episodes of this podcast has brought me one of the most important lessons that I have learned is to be consistent. Consistency is applicable to all facets of life and it allows you to build not only your skills at the task at hand, but also yourself. By committing each day to accomplishing activities that positively fulfill you, you are bettering yourself. I would never have been able to reach where I am at in life without the practice of consistency. However, life is a process and you will fail and falter. You will not always be consistent with your tasks, but perfection is not the goal. Being better is the goal and that only comes through taking each step along the journey, as I have done on this podcast, with peace, presence, and perseverance.

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Due to all of my talk of paradigm breaking one may think that voting would be an aspect of society that I would also have issues with. However, I have found that voting, in and of itself, is a powerful form of paradigm breaking. To me the act of voting is the opportunity to shape the world around you for the better and what, if not that, is paradigm breaking? The established order does not, indeed must not, constantly remain the same and voting is the mechanism through which we, as citizens of this democracy, forge that change. To vote is to use your voice to shatter the status quo. The greatest rebels in history, the Buddha, Jesus, Paul, MLK, Jr., used only their voices to radically change the world for the better. Voting is your opportunity to do the same. Listen in today as I discuss the power of a vote.

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I have always had a deep fascination with the perimeter of conventional society, the domain of weirdos, rebels, and paradigm breakers. It is not only a fascination, but a lifestyle, because I am very much on the outskirts of “normal” society. The common thread between the various subcultures that I have interacted with on the outskirts, from Comic Con attendees to ultrarunners, is passion. Everyone in these various groups is deeply passionate about their oddity and has surrounded themselves with people who are as well. That support network provides them the platform to let their freak flag fly and, therefore, be themselves. We are complex creatures that cannot, indeed must not, by fit into a singular box by society. Letting our freak flags fly isn’t only life advice, but a social necessity to build a world where we can all work to be our true selves.

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Over the past few weeks, and for a few more weeks to come, I have spent each weekend in places other than San Luis Obispo, where I’m living right now. In other words I have been moving around a lot and in that chaotic environment, coupled with a heavy load of schoolwork, I have been thinking a lot about how I can best find peace in the moment. As a rock climber, cyclist, and runner I have recognized the commonality between the three distinct sports: finding fluidity will make for a much better climb, ride, or run. I realized that that mantra, find fluidity, is not only beneficial to sport, but to daily life as well. It allows us, if we focus on it, to recognize that we must not fight the situation we are in, but work with and learn from it. So listen in today as I discuss the benefits for your personal peace of finding the fluidity in the moment.

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Throughout my entire life I have been fascinated by the act of shocking people out of their automatic modes of living. As such, I was intrigued by Salvador Dalí’s revolutionary perspectives on morality and society. He was a rebel and the genre of art that he worked under, Surrealism, was as well. Surrealism, Futurism, and Avant-garde are all thought provoking movements on the act of breaking the paradigm. To subvert the status quo is always my goal, to help my peers redefined their perception of what is possible, and those movements have evolved into something wholly unique: a New Surrealism that I believe is led by artists like Marilyn Manson and Megadeth, comedians like Key & Peele, and athletes like Anton Krupicka. A disparate bunch, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they break the paradigm. Blazing our own trails is not only an artistic mission, but an actionable tool for positive societal change and so always remember this: stay true to yourself!

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“A lot of the work is giving enough to get them curious and willing to look inside and see.”

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How do an art & literature Bible class, Robert Browning’s 1842 poem “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” and building a steel frame fixie bike with gravel geometry from scratch all relate? Through research, is how. Research is the key component in understanding, interpreting, and/or executing all of these projects and topics. Research for your personal edification is not an intellectual’s pastime, but a vital activity for everyone to become conscientious media consumers. In our world of passionate opinion making, “alternative facts,” and lies from the highest office, it is important to process this onslaught of information using the sieve of your own knowledge. But, that knowledge can only be helpful if it is fueled by multiple perspectives, has a strong foundation, and helps you to become more well-rounded. Listen today as I delve into the process and topic of doing you own research.

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The stories we tell ourselves and each other are reminders on how to be better. That is what I try to achieve each week in this podcast. As I worked this weekend on my various endeavors I slowly, but surely checked off items on the to-do list that I had made for myself. However, that got me to thinking about the near constant reinforcement of the idea that the more you get done the better you are that I see in the media. Our culture is obsessed with productivity and people, too often, invest their happiness in judging how much they have gotten done that day. The more the better, right? Wrong. Happiness does not come from productivity and productivity must not be your prison. When accomplishing tasks, whatever they may be, you must stay present, stay focused, and remember to take a step back from what you do to gain a better perspective. Fall in love with the process, as I always say.

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While I may talk a big talk on this podcast week to week, in reality I am human and I am not perfect. The truth of the matter is that I often allow myself to be controlled by stress and distractions, leading to sometimes calamitous results. On the small and large scale I allow myself to be prisoner to stress, it shaped my emotional wellbeing last year, and it is rare that I have the complete self-awareness to recognize it. I may talk, but I don’t always act. That imperfection is where I can learn, however. It provides me an opportunity to grow, something I will need to do to best enjoy this new school year. Going forward I hope to reshape my perspective into something that supports me, instead of tears me down. Listen in today as I discuss the consequences of my flaws and the perspectives that I must take to learn from and better them.

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There are countless people throughout, and currently in, each of our lives who positively influence us. Those mentors hold a powerful sway on your path and your betterment, but no one is perfect. When those mentors go astray you must realize that their past message, that at one point positively influenced you, still can. Their current mistakes or negativity does not cancel out their past influence. However, the current mistakes or negativity should cause you to let them go and move on, all the while holding dear their message that does influence you to be better.

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Too often we speed through our lives without taking the time to recognize the multitude of opportunities we have available to us to find personal peace. The practice of cooking is one of those opportunities and yet our society has forgotten the importance of cooking at home. Today's episode is a simple reminder of the importance of cooking and eating at home, because it is not only an opportunity for mindful peace and presence, but also an opportunity to fuel your body right. For me, cooking is a metaphor for life, because it allows you to be present amongst each step while workings towards the whole. Let's all remember that.

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In each moment of our lives we each blaze our own personal trail and that trail must be crewed by those who truly have an enlightening influence on you and challenge you to be better. Whether they are friends or family those that surround you must be positive influences on you and your path. If those that surround you are negative influences who hold you back you must make the committed decision to let them go, with compassion, so that you can be better. It will be a difficult process, but one that will, ultimately, free you to live a life even more true, happy, and fulfilled. Today we delve into stories of the benefits of letting go those negative influences and how to embrace the people that truly support you.

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Let's talk about tea, because while the US may still be a coffee culture, tea is becoming more popular and is a staple of many people's daily lives. I am an avid tea drinker and have been so for probably longer than I have been a coffee drinker. For me, tea is a much gentler experience and one that provides more overall benefits than coffee. One of the main attributes of tea that I love is the fact that it can so easily be a positive personal ritual, an active meditation, that benefits me each time I take the time to focus on the process. Today I make the case that tea can and should be an active meditation for all of us to center us in the moment. Join me as I delve into tea's vibrant history and its numerous positive and negative health effects. I hope we can all be better from this discussion.

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Let's talk about coffee. The wonder drug of our society and a staple of most our daily rituals. To me it seems that coffee is so readily available and commonly used that we don't think much about it, at least I don't. After many years of coffee consumption I've recently done some thinking on my, and society's, relationship with coffee. As I look around me day to day I see so many people who live in a state of fatigue and use coffee to temporarily drag themselves out of it. However, I believe that coffee must be used as an added bonus to our day, for its flavor and energetic properties, but not as a crutch. To combat our state of fatigue, and shift into living in a state of energy, we must learn to listen to our bodies and respond intelligently. That intelligence only comes by equipping ourselves with the right knowledge of how to treat our bodies as machines and temples. So listen in to today's episode as I delve into the lush history of coffee, its scientific benefits and drawbacks, and how we can all redefine our relationship with coffee to learn to listen our bodies.

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As humans we constantly have ups and downs. Whether those ups and downs are emotional or physical, we feel them each day. Over the past few weeks I have, quite honestly, been feeling down. It is not constant nor overwhelming, but I have noticed a distinct shift in my mental wellbeing towards the negative. The main reason I believe that shift has occurred is because I feel like my business and sport endeavors have come to a sort of stand still. That perception of staleness is only a matter of perspective, I know, but it is still difficult to walk the walk, instead of just talking the talk of betterment. I have realized that one of the key ways I can work through and with these feelings is through not beating myself up about how I feel. Instead, I must listen to my body, work with it, and learn from it. As such, I hope that you can learn from these musings that I share today. 

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There are many aspects of our day to day lives that we take for granted or simply don't think about. Over the past few weeks, as I have been working to manage my fatigue and injuries, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how I spend my time each day. For any of us, what we do with our time each day must be things that are positive and fulfilling, that better us. One of those things, something I have refocused on recently, are hobbies. Having a hobby may seem childish, pointless, or just not possible to some, but I posit in today's episode that hobbies are vital aspects of building a peaceful mental headspace and a truly fulfilling life. Hobbies have a multitude of benefits that contribute to becoming a more well-rounded human being. They can become part of our process of personal betterment and presence, if we let them. Listen today as I delve into hobbies and how you can find and focus on yours.

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"That's the ticket: putting energy into it, even when no one else can see it."

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We all deal with it, but we rarely take the time to step back and focus on it: fatigue. Our hectic lives are so easily negatively impacted by a string of heavily fatigued hours, days, weeks, or even months. The causes of fatigue are so common in our lives, as well. Personally, it has been an issue that I have been dealing with for the past few weeks and I have only recently made committed, planned efforts to solve my high level of fatigue. Today we delve into the causes of and solutions to fatigue, a topic that I think will benefit us all. Just remember this: play it smart and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

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Whenever I sit down to record an episode for this podcast I always hope that whatever story I may tell, you may take what you will from it and use it to better yourself. Today I tell the stories of my past few weeks. I have completed my first year of college, adventured, road tripped, and spent time with my family. I delve into the stories of those experiences and how they have shaped the end of my first year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I also delve into two events that have recently transpired in my life that took a toll on my mindset, instantly redefining my preconceived notions and preconceptions about who I am and what I am capable of. It is hard to not let these events stop me or slow me down, but I can only do so by focusing on acceptance and diligence. Those two focuses are what have driven me over the past few weeks, so let's dig into how I am learning from them.

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“It doesn’t matter what happens to us, it only matters what you do about it.”

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“I find comfort in uncomfortable situations.”

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Welcome to the shantytown, to the freak show, to the extravaganza, to the world of the Born to Run Ultramarathons. Held once a year in May in Los Olivos, California I was able to finally make it out, for the first time, to this wild event. The core theme of running carries a common thread through all of the passionate people who attend: we all have a deep love for running far. That love for pushing our bodies transcends into other wild antics that populate the days of crazy that is the Born to Run Ultras. There was everything from a Tarahumaran bola race, lucha libre wrestling match, and race between legends Scott Jurek and Arnulfo Quimare to a beer mile, talent show, and wedding. Today, in a special episode, I chronicle the events, tales, and experiences of my weekend at Born to Run utilizing a multitude of perspectives from people who attended the event and who each had their own story to tell. Sit back and enjoy the absurdity!

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In our society, specifically American society and culture, we treat death as something that should be kept behind closed doors. Yet our entertainment is largely populated by brutal depictions of death. There is a blatant dichotomy in our relationship to death and that separation leads us to have trouble dealing with it. Death must become an opportunity for growth and for celebration. To celebrate the life of the deceased is to honor them, to become chained by your sorrow is to dishonor them. I believe to best process death we must bond with those around us through laughter, smiles, and conversation. Today's episode is an examination of the positive and negative aspects of our society's relationship to death and all of the baggage, ritual, and custom that come with it. Today, begin to think deeply about the paradigm around death, how we can break that paradigm, and add our humanity back into death.

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Family is a curious thing and when we lose a family member it is even curiouser. A week ago my grandmother passed away. Today's episode is an examination of my emotion within and about the loss of my grandma. Maria-Luz Contreras died at 85 years old and she was someone who always, without question, loved and supported me. She was my biggest fan. Her life was fraught with challenge and sorrow, so I have asked myself if she was ever happy even though I know I can never know for sure. Three of her four children and her guilt chained her. She fought an internal battle over her health, peace, and happiness. All I can trust in is that she loved me and I loved her. She is now at peace and with me, I know. I will honor her by doing my best, staying true to myself, and loving those around me.

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Our society is addicted to busyness and we have no idea what to do with free time. We live in a vicious cycle of drifting amongst leisure and so adding more busyness to salve our confusion. We are lost. A good friend of mine recently remarked to me, for the 100th time, "Oh, I'm so busy, it's been absolutely crazy." Busyness seems to be a badge of honor and a point of pride, a marker of success as it were. We are chained to our busyness, despite the fact that research shows that we now have more free time than ever. So the question becomes: What do we do with busyness? I believe that we must not allow ourselves to be a prisoner to it, take a step back and breathe, plan, eliminate extraneous tasks, single task, delegate duties, and learn from others. These paths to mental peace and freedom in the face of busyness are what I delve into in today's episode. Join me.

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It's awfully funny to me how often we impose limitations on ourselves. Before recording today's episode I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to talk about. To be quite honest, I did not even want to record the episode. However, it took me a second to realize that the reason I could not find a topic was because I was letting distractions rule. I took off the headphones and took a few deep breaths before I wrote down something that had kept my weekend sane: lists. Though as life is this episode evolved into much more than observations on lists. It evolved into an examination of what it means to ask questions, how to listen to your body, and of course why lists keep things simple.

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“I have to make a change, you have to make a change, we all have to do something to be role models for the young people in our world."

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We are bombarded on a daily basis with techniques for how to make our lives easier, happier, or, more generally, better. However, many of these techniques are snake oil medicine that have no lasting, nor truly beneficial, impacts on our life. One technique that has been repeated in many different forms throughout all of my spiritual, religious, philosophical, and scientific research of how to better ourselves is preparation. In all aspects of life, from athletics to spirituality, having a plan is one of the most beneficial ways to forge consistency, honesty, accountability, and responsibility. Through having forethought, and therefore establishing a system to follow, we allow ourselves to build a foundation on which all of our other practices for betterment are built. Quite simply, having a system frees you to focus.

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The choice between reaction or response is demarcated by a fine line. A line that is determined by the breath. We are either prisoner to our emotions or we take a breath and take a step back to use them, instead of abuse them. This most recent quarter, Winter Quarter, at my college, Cal Poly SLO, I let myself be ruled by reaction, instead of response. Too often I allowed my difficulties in the Calculus class that I was enrolled in drag me down and control me. That class was one of, if not the, hardest classes that I have ever taken and I passed with a C+. A grade that, even six months ago, I would have balked at and been ashamed of. However, today I am ecstatic about that grade, because I have shifted my perspective from A, A, A, to simply doing my best. If my best results in an A, then great. If my best results in a C+, then great. I took a breath to choose. The test now comes in seeing if I learn anything from last quarter and choose between reaction or response.

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As you know all too well, each of us are impacted by the people around us. That influence can be negative or positive, depending on the person performing the influencing. In every interaction we are shaped by those around us and I have recently been positively shaped by my Soil Science professor. I was continually amazed while taking Soil Science 121 with Dr. Appel at how often soil went unnoticed in my life before taking this class. Soil is, almost quite literally, beneath my feet everyday and with every step, yet I never considered its importance. Throughout this class I was fascinated with the nuances and intricacies of soil and with its massive influence over our world at large. That fascination was largely fueled by Dr. Appel's effusive love for the science of soil. Dr. Appel reminded me what it was like to have a teacher who is passionate about his or her subject, of which teachers I have had only a few. Today I want to delve into, and begin a conversation about, what it means to have passion for your work and how that passion can so positively influence the lives of those around you.

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For quite awhile now, a little over a year, I have admired the food blog and social media presence of Vegan Yack Attack. So I decided I wanted to have whoever was behind Vegan Yack Attack on the show. That person is Jackie Sobon and it only took us almost a year to align our schedules to finally sit down, over Skype, and have a chat. It was well worth the wait. As always I am fascinated by the deeper questions beyond simply what, when, or how to eat. Today Jackie and I delve into a wide-ranging conversation covering the accessibility of veganism (and the wellness movement at large), the creative and artistic process of developing a recipe, Jackie's personal evolution, incorporating health into our day to day lives, work ethic, and more. Please enjoy.

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There are certain things in life that simply get on your nerves, right? Meditation, spirituality, and religion provide me bases of knowledge to intellectually know that I must respond, instead of react, to those stressors, but I am not perfect and sometimes I can become prisoner to what surrounds me. In my apartment here on campus at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo I have, at times, let myself be prisoner to the situation that surrounds me. The people, and the filth that they generate, that live with me in this apartment are aspects that are at odds with my personality. To clearly illustrate: I would never invite a friend to hang out in this apartment, not due to embarrassment, but because I don't think anyone should have to be amongst the filth that surrounds me on a day to day basis. Today I delve into how I work through my imperfections and respond to what I can, or cannot be prisoner to, because ultimately I have the choice.  

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There's always a story to tell, right? Well, there is for me at least. Today's story is multi-faceted, it involves a difficult calculus class, soil science, long drives, Los Angeles, the gym, and trails. However, today's stories converge on one singular point: curiosity. This is the first episode in what I foresee as a series on the wide-ranging topic of curiosity, but as always today we start at the beginning. The beginning of what curiosity can and does mean for our journeys and how curiosity can positively impact our ability to engage with the world around us. Curiosity is a skill that must be built through honesty and vulnerability. Those attributes of honesty and vulnerability are exemplified in opening our hearts and minds, in asking questions, and in reading. So remember to be curious, be honest, and enjoy this episode!

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Each day we form opinions, judgments, and beliefs. These aspects of our personality manifest themselves in our conversations. Today's conversation is, quite simply, my own musings on the past few weeks of chaos in my life. This is the manifestation through conversation of my opinions, judgments, and beliefs. I strongly believe that it is vital to tell your story and today there are some good ones. I delve into my fractured (or strained) wrist, observations on the gym, working through failure in Calculus, and the difference between birthdays and true chapter headings in our lives. I truly hope you enjoy and that these musings give you a better perspective of who you truly are.

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"It's the silence in between the noise that's important."

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"You're only taking one lap and then that's that, so you might as well have fun."

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Within each of our own lives the buck stops with us. We have the choice between prison and freedom. Whether that choice comes in school, work, family, relationships, or health, we have the choice. Now I do not mean the prison after a trial, I mean the prison that we build when we allow ourselves to be a prisoner to our responsibilities, stressors, annoyances, and qualms. For me, personally, I have recently put a lot of work into solidifying my ability to learn from impermanence, from my difficult living situation, from the people that surround me, and from school. I could easily have let those stressors become my masters. When we are not honest with ourselves, when we are not listening to our breath, and when we are not present we fall easily into the habit of building our prison's walls and allowing the bars to fall. We lay the bricks to encase ourselves and then we question our, seeming, lack of ability to move and breathe. Instead of chaining ourselves to the floor, why don't we realize our ability to choose freedom? Because, we are fearful. So I ask you, who are you prisoner to?

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"The government has been blocking information like this [a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle], it's been controlled. We're all guinea pigs! The dietary guidelines have been framed by the industry and that's disgusting. They don't want radical change like this!"

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What's the point? Why do all of it for a seemingly meaningless result? Why? These are questions that have surfaced many a time in our lives. As a college student these are questions that have been asked of me by a multitude of my friends. Friends wishing they could be out in the "real" world, friends who are bored and angered by classes, friends who wish they took a gap year to "grow," and friends who want to drop out. These qualms arise in the biased and insulated life that we lead as college students, but these are qualms and questions, in different forms, that arise in everyone's life.

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As a people we have been inculcated with the wrong ideal that our problems are someone else's fault. Inherent within each moment we have the capacity to acknowledge the fact that in our life the buck stops with us. Placing blame on others is simply faulty excuses and betrays your weakness. Recently I placed blame on others and let my ego control my emotions, which caused me to feel lost. Recently I've seen this happen in a friend of mine, getting overwhelmed by what is impermanent. Recently I employed a tactic to return to peace: I fell in love with the process. Please join me today as we examine the fact that inherent within each moment we have the opportunity to acknowledge that moment's opportunity for growth, to find the beauty, to break down what we will accomplish, and to therefore fall in love with the process.

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Happy New Year! For me, 2017 was a life changing year, there is no two ways about it. Accepting the inevitability of change is a vital part of our personal evolutions. Going into 2017 I knew how much change their would be for me, but I never imagined in how many ways it would come and how positive it would be.

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