Category Archives: Live Fully

How to Use Social Media for the Betterment of Your Community. And for the Betterment of Yourself.

Following the recent events of the shootings in South Carolina, the removal of the confederate flag from the State House, the Supreme Court rulings on healthcare and gay marriage, I have been paying close attention to what people have been posting on social media. Although the majority of posts I observed were positive, supportive and loving, I am continually surprised at the number of vitriolic messages people chose to put out into the world. Beyond the broader universal issues, I recently experienced an ex-husband take to Facebook to attack his ex-wife publicly for issues that were private and only related to the two of them, but apparently he decided that publicly humiliated her was going to benefit him in some way. I listened to a beautiful and compassioned talk by author and Psychologist Brené Brown on the Power of Vulnerability, in which she talked about how we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open if we truly want to connect, empathize and feel love. In the comment section, someone attacked her for being “fat.”

Why? What draws so many of us choose to react with negativity and ugliness? What thought and self-awareness is present when doing this?

I believe in free speech and have no interest in censoring anyone. But I do challenge myself and everyone else to ask this question before putting something into the ether world of the internet: why am I posting this? How does it serve me or anyone else? Am I acting as an agent of good, or being destructive and divisive?   I’ve given this much thought, and I’ve come up with some guidelines for myself that I’ve summarized below.

Be Positive.

Do people really need to see another video of teenagers fighting in a fast food joint? How important is it that you share how bad the service was at the restaurant last night? Are you attacking, insulting and ridiculing, or are you praising, thanking, and helping someone or some cause? If you want to be respected you first have to give respect. No one wants to be associated with a negative individual. Before posting something, ask yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Is there anyone this might harm? Sometimes we post thoughts without considering how they might impact our audience and it’s easy to forget how many friends are reading. Two hundred people make a crowd in person, but online that number can seem insignificant.  Remember, we want to build ties, not burn them down.


Know your intentions.

Doug Firebaugh of has identified seven psychological needs we may be looking to meet when we log on: acknowledgment, attention, approval, appreciation, acclaim, assurance, and inclusion. Before you post, ask yourself: Am I looking to be seen or validated? Is there something more constructive I could do to meet that need?

Be your authentic self.

In the age of personal branding, most of us have a persona we’d like to develop or maintain. Ego-driven tweets focus on an agenda; authenticity communicates from the heart. Talk about the things that really matter to you. If you need advice or support, ask for it. It’s easier to be present when you’re being true to yourself.

Respond with your full attention.

People often share links without actually reading them, or comment on posts after only scanning them. If the greatest gift we can give someone is our attention, then social media allows us to be endlessly generous. We may not be able to reply to everyone, but responding thoughtfully when we can makes a difference.

Don’t be too quick to judge and react.  

You know the old saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? It still holds true today. When meeting individuals online, you should strike up a conversation, get to know them a bit before you judge who or what they are.  Just because you are “hiding” behind a computer doesn’t give you free reign to act as you please. You still need to treat people properly. Show patience, kindness and assume others have good intentions before you assume they are malicious.

Support Others.

Share messages about others more than messages about yourself. Retweet other organizations’ posts, share web content relevant to your tribe and post kind words and questions. Celebrate the accomplishments of those who share them with you.

Thank your community.

Whether it’s a donation, a comment on your blog or a helpful recommendation, it’s important to acknowledge the kind gesture when anyone supports you.

What ideas do you have to make social media more positive and loving? I’d love to know.


I’d like to acknowledge and for inspiring some of the above ideas.

 My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at

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It’s a Time of Transition and Reflection. How Will You Engage the New Year?

As one year winds to a close and a new one approaches, many of us see this as an opportunity to reflect on the past and to think about what we want from the year to come.  Our wishes and goals often manifest in specific things, such as losing weight, finding a new job, or quitting a bad habit.  This year, I invite you to try approaching this idea from a broader perspective.  As I was deciding how I would manifest my own goals for the year, I read Chris Guillebeau’s post on this very topic, and I decided I couldn’t have said it better.  Here are his wishes for (himself and for us) for the new year.  He wants:


To wake in the morning full of life and energy, awaiting the day with anticipation and purpose.

To step out into the world ready to accomplish a significant task.
 To engage and initiate instead of merely responding. To take the active choice that you will make something happen.

To maintain harmony and goodwill in relationships. To follow Shakespeare’s adage: love all, trust a few, and do wrong to no one.

To focus on contribution and engagement instead of withdrawal into yourself. (Tip: When you aren’t sure what to do next, find a small way to help someone.)

To pursue productive, meaningful work. To spend most of your time doing something that you and others find meaningful.

To accept that everything you create will likely be flawed in some way, but to create anyway.*


Wise advice, I believe.  How will you manifest as your best self in 2015?  I would love to hear.  You can write me  If I receive enough responses, I will post them here on a follow up blog.

*You can read his entire post at

My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now.  You can find it at

The Power of the End-of-Year Retreat: A guest post by author Ed Davis.

End of December:


Spiritual Retreat

Since the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a downtime for teachers, my wife and I decided in 2011 to go on a spirit retreat—and where better than a cabin in the beautiful Hocking Hills of southeastern Ohio? I highly recommend such an undertaking, but it’s good to go prepared for silence and study.

What, you might ask, is a spirit retreat? First, I don’t consider myself conventionally religious; rather, my spiritual life is eclectic, informed by several traditions, from Buddhism to Catholic to Baptist. As I pondered the Hocking Hills trip, I envisioned something like the solitary retreat I took over a decade ago to Gethsemani, the Trappist Monastery outside Bardstown, Kentucky, home to the late Thomas Merton, famous writer and monk. During that long, hot weekend on the fourth of July, I prayed, meditated and participated in the monastery’s cycle of worship, including rising in the middle of the night for services in the chapel—a moving experience. On this more recent retreat, I intended to delve deeply into Merton’s spiritual classic, New Seeds of Contemplation, as a way to deepen the relationship with my higher power. While I’m not Catholic, I knew that Merton had plenty to say to me.

I admit I was a bit anxious about spending three days in mostly silence; my fear had less to do with being confined in a small space with a simpatico fellow seeker than about my relationship with timeWould I grow bored, restless, or depressed? Worse, would I feel pressure to be spiritual? The forecast that week was for rain, plus it was quite cold. Unlike past visits to Hocking Hills, we weren’t planning to hike much, if at all. We were planning to stay still, and except for one walk in a downpour, we stayed inside the cabin. With nowhere to go and nothing else to do, I bore down on what I’d come to do.

Except for meals, we each stayed pretty much in our sacred space:  me on the couch, my wife on a stool at the high butcher’s block table in the kitchen, involved in her own soul pursuits. For hours there was no sound except the roaring furnace and flapping fireplace. Although I’d read Merton’s seminal work twice before, the  mysticism, startling paradoxes and poetic density of New Seeds often left me feeling that his explanation of Christian contemplation was simply too complex for me to grasp, much less practice. By the second day, though, I sensed a breakthrough, and by evening, I thought I understood Seeds better than I ever had.

At the risk of over-simplifying, I think Merton seems to be saying in Seeds that contemplation is never easy, since it’s fraught with so many obstacles (such as religious piety and spiritual ambition); furthermore, it’s about one thing only:  an ever-deeper relationship with one’s intensely personal God, who is not “out there” but right here, acting for and on me now. Thus, God is more an experience than a distant object of worship or study. This is not what the Baptist Church of my youth taught me, and while I’m not bitter about that—it says as much about me as it does about the church I came of age in—I believe I’ve matured as a spiritual seeker, due to the mentorship of Merton and several other gurus, such as Kathleen Norris, (author of Dakota:  A Spiritual Geography and Cloister Walk), Wendell Berry and Thoreau.

I’ve often reflected fondly on that “time out of time” we spent in the Hocking Hills three years ago. The thing about any retreat, spiritual or otherwise, is that you have to go home. You hope to sustain the high for as long as you can, but, failing that, at least continue the growth you began. I hoped the insight I’d received wouldn’t just fuel more ambition, spiritual or otherwise. Looking back now, I see it laid the framework that allowed me to retire gracefully (mostly) from my 35-year teaching career and come to grips with my desire to be a well-published writer. Today, I’m perfectly happy that a small university press published my latest novel. For me, “o’erweening ambition” was a spiritual problem, and becoming more “right-sized” was the spiritual solution. I wish you Godspeed in your own quest for peace and serenity in the sacred place of your choice.


–Ed Davis


 Ed Davis is the author of  the newly released novel The Psalms of Israel Jones, which is available anywhere books are sold.

We are all lottery winners. Here’s why.

Recently I listened to a podcast about WWI from Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History.  Dan does fascinating and well-researched episodes on all areas of history, but this one struck me in particular because prior to listening I didn’t understand the scope of devastation, destruction and human costs to that war.  But it taught me a valuable lesson on just how lucky we are to live here, now, in this particular time and place.  It is a gift that human beings have never experienced in the entire existence of mankind.  And we so often take it for granted.

To understand the immensity of this gift, we must break it down to its core.  In our homes we have running, clean, hot and cold water, refrigerators for our food, machines to wash our dishes and our clothes, furnaces for the winter and air conditioners for the summer.  We have aspirin for our headaches and cars to take us wherever we choose.  These “basic” things that most of us have are more luxuries than King Louis the XIV experienced at Versailles only three hundred years ago.  The smart phones in our pockets contain more technology and information in them than Bill Clinton had access to as President only twenty years ago.

The comedian Louis C.K. was on a flight from New York to Los Angeles and sat next to a man who was irate that the plane’s Wi-Fi was down.  Louis pointed out that in less than two centuries ago it took a year for settlers to travel the same distance, a trip that was plagued by attacks and disease and many would die before they ever reached their destination. “You’re sitting in a chair in the sky and you will be there in three hours—and you are complaining?” he joked.  Good point.

In Freakanomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner point out that despite the conflicts and disasters that the news media love to report, we are currently living in the most peaceful time in all recorded history.  Think about that: it is estimated that 108 billion people have lived on this planet.  And we are the ones that get to live here now.  The magnitude of that gift is startling.  We have truly won the lottery.

And that’s the bare basics that almost all of us share.  If you have a good job, you are blessed with something millions don’t have.  Appreciate it.  If you have someone that loves you and loves you back, you have something beautiful that many lonely and broken-hearted folks do not.  Remember that the next time you feel irritated that your partner didn’t pick up his socks.

I’m not minimizing the real human suffering that we all will experience from time to time, but remembering the abundance of gifts we have been given that the majority of all human beings never experienced can alleviate the suffering, give us strength to bear it, and to remind us that despite our troubles, are blessings are so much more.

And the best gift we’ve been given of all?  Because we are so much safer, educated and prosperous and don’t have to worry about our shelter, clothing, food or being eaten by a saber-tooth tiger, we can focus on making the world even better. There is still much to fix, and those living in the 21st century are better equipped to do so than all those who have paved the way for us.  The best way we can thank the people that suffered and died to create the world we’ve been given is to continue the progress forward.  Let’s keep it goin’.


If you enjoy, the Abundant Bohemian blog posts, the best compliment you can make is to share it with others whom you believe may appreciate it.  The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live An Unconventional Life is now available wherever books are sold.  I hope you check it out.

We Are Responsible for Everything That Happens To Us. And Why That’s a Good Thing.

Things go wrong.  A drunk runs a red light and wrecks your car.  A thief steals your credit card and runs up a huge debt. You get sick or break your leg falling on the ice.  Your company downsizes and you lose your job.  Something happens outside of your control that’s bad and it’s not your fault.  But you are still responsible.  You are responsible for all of it.

Yes, we all know that bad things happen to good people.  But when you are faced with any challenge, adversity or trauma you must choose how you are going to respond, and you have only two options.  You can take responsibility or you can be a victim.

Being a victim means is choosing to be powerless.  It’s deciding that you have no control over the outcome or played any role in the circumstances that caused your trouble.  It is a feeble, bitter choice to view the world from the perspective of a victim.

Choosing to accept responsibility for everything that happens to you is empowering.  You are choosing to say that you are in charge and in control of your life.  And that is choosing to come from a place of strength.  What does word responsible even mean?  It means “response + ability.”  It means you have the ability to respond.  To take whatever hand you have been dealt and to play those cards with dignity, serenity, and strength.  You own those cards.  Making the shift in mindset from victimhood to responsibility frees the mind up to new ideas and new options.   It inspires action.

The next time you want to say, “It’s not my fault” or “why does this always happen to me?” stop yourself.  Instead, ask “what part did I play in creating this situation, and how can I make it better?  What can I do different next time to keep this from happening again?”  You’ll feel better, your mood will improve, and your anxiety will lessen.

Develop the ability to respond.  It doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to you.  But it will mean you can face them down and be happier in the process.

The Importance of Finding Your Tribe

Several months ago I joined The Dirty Gym in Dayton, Ohio and made a commitment with my friend Brent that we would show up every weekday at 7:00 a.m.  And it’s not always easy for the typical reasons: it’s early and it’s hard.  Marcus, our trainer, runs us through the ringer on most days.  But it’s also easier than I expected because of something I didn’t expect:

The sense of community that I obtained by going there.  I found a new tribe.

I really like going because I like seeing, talking with and being around the other people that attend the gym.  We have shared goals.  They are optimistic, positive and supportive.  We tell dirty jokes and laugh a lot.  (There really is nothing you can say about working out “push it” “all the way down” etc. that can’t also apply to sex.).

I found a new tribe and it reminded me how important it is to know what we want and to find like-minded people.  If you want to write a book, join a writer’s group or attend a conference.  You want to hike, join a hiking club.

When taking on something big, willpower alone is not enough.  Willpower is a muscle that can be exhausted and eventually we all run out.  You need others to support and encourage you.  You need positive people who understand the importance of what you are doing.  You need others to celebrate the joy of success when it happens.

Go out and find those people.  If you already have them, reach out to them.  Ease away from relationships with people who don’t share your values or support you.  Give more time to those that do.  Find those who share your colors, paint your faces, and get tribal.

A Simple Trick to Open Your Mind To New Ideas

We all get stuck in rigid views, judgments and ideas from time to time.  We have our version of reality and we project that reality onto others and the world.  Sometimes a fact is a fact, but many times we can’t see past our own experiences and interpretations.  This rigid thinking cuts us off from others and the possibility of seeing things in a new light, or at least understanding and empathizing with those who see things differently.  And that leads to division, blaming and unnecessary strife.

A simple trick I learned from James Altucher* helped me to step out of this trap and I think it could help you.  Whenever you voice a strongly held opinion, simply challenge yourself to change the punctuation at the end of the sentence from a period to a question mark and say the opinion out loud, first as a definitive statement, then as a question, including the upward lilt we all give a question at the end.  For example:

“Barak Obama should legalize marijuana.”


“Barak Obama should legalize marijuana?”

Feel the shift in your psyche as you make this subtle change.  Suddenly you open up to other possibilities.  You can see things from a different perspective, even if your view doesn’t ultimately change.  And most times it won’t; that’s human nature.  But you will feel less rigid and less judgmental of others who see things differently.  You will be more empathetic and feel less separated.  We all see the world through the tinted glasses of our own experience.  Try uncertainty for a little while.  As Rumi wisely said, “sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”  You never know what new things may slip into the cracks of your beliefs.

Give it a shot.  I mean . . . give it a shot?



Why You Need to Play More and Work Less. Here’s How to do It.

I recently learned the difference between “intrinsic” value versus “extrinsic” value reading Philosopher Mark Rowland’s Running With the Pack, his wonderful treatise on the joys of running.  If something has “extrinsic value” then the primary reason we do it for the sake of something else.  For example, if the main reason we work a job is to get a check so we can pay our bills, then the value of that job is extrinsic. However, if we do something primarily for the sake of doing it, that something has intrinsic value.  An activity that has intrinsic value is valuable for what it is in itself, and not because of anything else it might allow one to get or possess.

A mother may read to her child at night to help the child develop or fall asleep, but if the main reason she does so is the pure pleasure of it, that is intrinsic value.  When a father tosses the football with his son in the backyard, nothing is being “accomplished.”  They’re doing it for solely for the pleasure of doing it.  Intrinsic value.

“Play” is defined as being engaged with something of intrinsic value.

“Work” is defined as being engaged with something of extrinsic value.

In the western world, we spend a disproportionate amount of time on activities that solely have extrinsic value. The 20th century German philosopher Moritz Schlick wrote in 1927 “I do no know whether the burden of purpose has ever weighed more heavily on mankind than at the present time.  The present idolizes work.”  Not much has changed in ninety years.

There is nothing wrong with working hard.  It’s the reasons behind the work that have often gone astray.  We need to find time to do more things solely for the sake of doing them.  That’s where the joy lies.

I get this when I “play” soccer.  Yes, I get exercise, I enjoy the competition, but that’s not why I do it.  I love the sense of being in the flow, lost in the moment, the movement, the event of it.  I would do it regardless of any other benefit. I get this sometimes when I write, when I get lost in the idea or story I am conveying.  I have been trying to bring this more to my law practice as well, by pulling my attention away from “getting things done” and the billable nature of the work and instead focusing on the ultimate good I hope to provide my clients by helping solve a problem or improving their lives in someway.  This makes the act of doing it much more rewarding.

We all need more play in our lives.  Here are some steps to make that happen:

  1. Find things that you would do solely for the sake of doing them, regardless of any benefit to you and anyone else.Make these activities a priority.  Force yourself to find time to do them and let go of the idea that everything must have a “purpose.”  As Rowland wrote, “it is a necessary condition of something being truly important in life that it have no purpose outside itself—that it be useless for anything else.  Worthlessness—in this sense—is a necessary condition of real value.”
  2. And when you do your “work”—i.,e., the activities that you do to earn money, make your home livable, etc., savor it. Do it for its own sake, not just to get it done or get it over with. As Monk David Steindl-Rast advises, “even people who have to do jobs they don’t like and find meaningless can still be free within them by reminding themselves why they do them.  As long as we do our work out of love for those whom we love, we do it for a good reason.  Love is the best reason for our labors.”

Rethink why you do what you do.  Play more and work less.  That’s where the joy and meaning can be found.   And appreciate those moments when you get them.  Now get out there and play.

Anne Lamott and the Restorative Experience of the Couch Cruise

I woke up Friday morning at my regular time and looked over at the clock, then to the gray sky outside my window, and felt dread.  Whether it was the winter blues, the after-effects of a stressful week or a combination of both, I just wasn’t in the mood to work that day.  I checked my calendar and confirmed I didn’t have any appointments and decided I would give myself a couch cruise.

In her book, Plan B, Anne Lamott writes that when she is stressed, exhausted or overwhelmed, she carries her favorite pillow, comforter, and books to her living room, drops onto the couch and takes a “cruise.”  But even though she knows that she needs a break she finds it hard to justify, because, like most of us, she has much to do.  She writes:

I hate to stop, though I know that to go faster and faster and do more is to move in the direction of death. Continuous movement argues a wasted life. And so I try to create a cruise ship, to carry me back toward living…it’s unbelievable healing; it resets me. Yet it takes time, at least two hours. You can’t rush a cruise ship; you can’t hurry doing nothing. After awhile, you see the sweetest, most invigorating thing of all: one person tenderly caring for another, even if it’s just me taking care of me on my old couch.

And despite having a stack of files waiting for me at my office, I did just that.  At the recommendation of a friend I began the novel Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, which I finished the same day, in about six hours. (An excellent novel, by the way: darker and more complex than the film, perhaps unsurprisingly.)  It felt so good to be still, to be alone, to rest, to check out for a day.  And the fact that I was doing it while the rest of the world was working made it fun, even a bit  . . . naughty.

And then that night I had dinner with friends, spent the next day (a warm sunny one) running and hiking with a friend, and by Sunday I was rejuvenated.  I went into the office and caught up quickly and felt relaxed and ready to start the week.  And it was because I made the choice to just take care of me on my old couch.

Give yourself this gift from time to time.  If chosen wisely, it is not be an act of laziness or failure of motivation, but a regeneration, an energetic, productive activity.  One that we all need but seldom allow ourselves.  When you feel rundown, spent or just sad, give it to yourself.  Happy cruising.




Raymond Carver

                                                                            Woke up this morning with

                                                                            a terrific urge to lie in bed all day

                                                                            and read. Fought against it for a minute.

                                                                            Then looked out the window at the rain.

                                                                            And gave over. Put myself entirely

                                                                            in the keep of this rainy morning.

                                                                            Would I live my life over again?

                                                                            Make the same unforgiveable mistakes?

                                                                            Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

                                                        from All of Us: The Collected Poems

Why You Should Take a Smoke Break Every Day (But Skip the Smoking).

My father was a freelance artist and worked from home.  A lifetime smoker, he would work for several hours and then stand up from his drawing board, stretch his back, and tell my brother and I, “it’s time for a smoke break.”  We’d follow him outside, summer or winter, and sit on the back steps for ten to fifteen minutes.  Sometimes we would chat, but mostly we would be quiet, sitting still, watching the sky, the yard, whatever caught our eyes.

Yes, part of this was the need of a smoker to get his fix, but looking back now I know it was much more than this.  Before the term was in vogue, this was my father, and my brother and I by mimicry, being mindful.

My father didn’t take his smoke breaks just when his back was sore or he needed a nicotine hit, but also when he was creatively stuck, needed work through an artistic trouble spot, to come up with new ideas, or just to step away for a moment.  This is what taking a small break in our day, taking the time to do nothing, can give us.  And we all need to take it.  As reported by Maria Konnikova, author of Mastermind: How To Think Like Sherlock Holmes*, doing this can improve our vital signs, such as blood pressure, and improve cognitive function.  She writes:

In recent years, studies have shown that meditation-like thought (an exercise in the very attentional control that forms the center of mindfulness), for as little as fifteen minutes a day, can shift frontal brain activity toward a pattern that has been associated with more positive emotional states.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation, but I don’t want to get hung up on that word. Mindfulness is engaging not in thoughtlessness, but rather thoughtfulness.  It is not what happens when we walk down the street distracted with a conversation we had earlier, making plans for later, checking our text messages.  It is a process of observing, of being present.  Of truly seeing.  And in this state, we see differently.  We think differently.  We see new things and arrive at new answers.  Our productivity is improved by taking this moment of complete non-productivity.

You can achieve mindfulness by sitting lotus position on your meditation mat, but you don’t have to.  You can achieve it sitting on your Adirondack chair on your deck or while running with your dog.  Or you can get it between work sessions by going outside and sitting on the steps with your kids for fifteen minutes a day, like my dad did.  Skip the cigarettes, though.  Those things are bad for you.  But the other part?  Few things are healthier.