How Do I Let You Go?

 

How do I let you go?

A part of me still wants to be with you.

How can I be the best version of myself and still be with you?

You almost took my life a few times.

I could have gone to jail because of you… But you kept pulling me back.

I made huge mistakes while with you and caused suffering in the world.

Society wants me to be with you even though it’s not in the best interest of my mental, physical, and emotional health. Why is this?!

I see what you have done to others lives.

I spent thousands of dollars on you, putting me in financial stress and debt.

But damn, we had some good times together.

I made some great friendships because of you, but I know its time to let you go.

I’ll always remember you, but it’s time for me to end this show.

After 12 years of love, my attachment to you is no more.

I worked long hours for you for 7 years but I know in my heart it’s the end.

You were part of my journey to this point and I’m thankful for that.

I’m leaving you alcohol.

I know my vision now and you’re not part of it.

How can I alleviate suffering in the world and promote a healthy lifestyle while sipping a jack?

I’m leaving you and I don’t want you back.

Back story; I have been drinking for 12 years now, age 15-27. I worked in the alcohol industry for 7 years, age 20-27. I did many unskilled actions on alcohol in college and high school. 

Mahalo,

Johnny Hoffman

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Happy New Year: Baby Steps Toward Our Vision.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much lately. I have been working 70 hour weeks, which are both physically and mentally exhausting. I’m working on paying off my car loan so I can experience freedom from debt. I plan to start posting more often starting in February. 

Happy New Year!

For every new year, there are millions of people looking to start the new year with healthier habits. Whether that be adding new healthy habits like exercise, more vegetables, meditation, etc into their daily activities. Some want to reduce or eliminate unhealthy habits like alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, screen use, etc. We can start right NOW instead of the arbitrary beginning of a new calendar year.

Our life is a sum of our habits. Luckily for us, our brain is highly malleable. Neuroscientists are proving that our brain is highly malleable to our environment and habits. By changing our habits, we rewire our brain and change our lives. Our life is not set, we can grow and change over a long period of time. We can replace old unskillful habits with new healthy habits starting right NOW.

I’m not perfect when it comes to changing my habits but I do have a good track record in changing my behavior. I went from a carnivore to a vegan in 2017, while working at a restaurant that is primarily meat-based. I lost 20lbs in 2017 and have kept it off. I started this blog and my Facebook/Instagram page “Zen Actions” and have consistently posted new content. Let’s get into a couple strategies for habitual changes as well as some pitfalls of the “all or nothing” mindset.

Start small, do what you can, and have fun. 

Start small.

I, like many others, thought that we had to change our behaviors drastically overnight to achieve our vision. This led to many failed attempts because our brain is so wired to do these habits every day. Most long-lasting habitual changes start by changing our habits slowly over-time. I didn’t become a vegan overnight; I first became a Lacto-Ovo-Pescetarian (Dairy-eggs-fish) in May 2017 and slowly cut down my use of dairy in a 6 month period. Then in November 2017, I took the leap into a 100% plant-based diet. In that 6 months, I learned more about the plant-based lifestyle and how to successfully transition. I now have compassion and understanding for those who struggle to get off a meat-based diet. I still have lots of room to improve my diet by eating more whole food plants and less processed plant-based foods in 2018.

Do what you can.

I’m a single guy in my 20’s with no kids, making habitual changes slightly easier than those who have a family, elderly, or disabled. A single mom/father might not have the time to meditate 30 minutes a day every day.  Someone in their 80’s might not have the energy to run a marathon. This is where most people give up on their habits. The “all or nothing” mentality prevents the single parents from starting a meditation practice even if its just mindful breathing 5 minutes a day for now. The elderly person gives up on exercise because they can’t run a marathon but they could walk for 10 minutes a day for now. You’re planting seeds that could grow with consistent and creative actions.

Have fun!

Changing your habits doesn’t have to be so serious. I joke around about being vegan all the time at work and my coworkers are intrigued by my lifestyle. I even got a local guy to eat a tofu stir fry and he really enjoyed it. The worst idea for losing weight is to choose an activity that you hate to do. If you hate running, don’t force yourself to run a mile a day. Find activities you have fun doing but burn calories like basketball, tennis, hiking, etc. If you’re not a morning person, work out at night time.

Don’t buy into societal norms that you have to be a morning person to thrive or that you have to “go big or go home”. Most people in that mindset eventually go home, lol. Many people exaggerate how much they can do in a month but underestimate what they can do in a year. By taking small steps in the right direction, we can fundamentally change our mindset, habits, and overall life. It’s not about how fast we go but in what direction we are heading. There will be times that we have to take a huge leap but for the most part, life is a continuous process of small steps.

My intention is to empower you to take conscious steps towards a more meaningful, peaceful, and joyful life.

“I have arrived. I am here. My destination in every step.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

 

 

My Mission: To Alleviate Suffering in All Living Beings.

Aloha my brothers and sisters,

My mission is to alleviate as much suffering as I can in all living beings. It’s a lofty mission, but I’m excited to take it on as my life’s purpose. But first of all, I have to alleviate the suffering in my own life. How can I  fully help others suffer less if I can’t help myself?

It has been quite a month for me. For quite some time now I have had this lingering tension on the left side of my abdominal area which reached all the way to the left side of my jaw. I couldn’t figure out why I had this tension. At first, I was numbing it with alcohol every night which was getting out of control. The alcohol worked to alleviate the tension momentarily but the following day it would reappear. I was resisting this tension, which was causing me to suffer. A couple weeks ago, I was driving to work and the tension was almost unbearable, like a thousand tightly wound knots in my abdomen. I finally surrendered to the tension and accepted it. I did more than accept it, I showed compassion and love to it. My tension went away for 15 minutes of pure bliss and joy. I felt like I was floating in the sky or on an LSD trip. I enjoyed looking at the West Maui mountains as tears of joy went down my face. Soon though, I was back to the reality of my tension in my abdomen. Something awakened in me in that moment, I had to stop resisting pain and start accepting it for me to live a more peaceful life with less suffering. I had awoken to my mission to alleviate suffering in the world.

Fast forward two weeks. My meditation practice has been stronger than ever and I’m focusing on reducing my suffering. I eliminate alcohol and porn from my life because they both contribute to my own suffering. I also switched to a plant-based diet to help reduce suffering in myself, animals, and the planet. By changing my habits and intentionally reducing suffering in the world, I invoked suffering that was deep in my subconscious.

In my deep 30 minute meditations, I suddenly find myself reliving old memories from my childhood. All of these memories are either pure rage or rumination over unskillful actions I have done in my past (stealing, cheating, lying). Instead of judging or running from these memories, I choose to accept, love, and show compassion to myself. I imagine myself as a child, filled with rage, confusion, and fear.

Pain doesn’t decompose. Pain lives in us until we confront it with love, compassion, and forgiveness. Suppressing this pain never works.

“What you resist, will persist.” -Carl Yung

What could be more logical than showing compassion, love, and forgiveness to yourself? What could be more insane than hating, judging, and running away from yourself? Clearly, we need to hold ourselves accountable for our wrongdoings but after that is done with, we must forgive and love ourselves. As a child, I would throw temper tantrums when things didn’t go my way. I would have mental breakdowns when playing golf, basketball, or even when my favorite teams lost in the playoffs. This pain still lives on within me because I suppressed and ran away from it. I judged myself and labeled my former self as a sensitive, weak, and inferior version of myself. In my teen years, I was calm and collective for the most part because I vowed to never be that inferior self again.

Yesterday afternoon I fell apart and broke down. So many emotions running through my body. So much pain, suffering, joy, and pure bliss all mixed into one moment.  The tension was truly alleviated once I showed true compassion, love, and forgiveness to my darker side. Radical acceptance was key to ending my suffering and I believe it is key to alleviating the suffering of mankind. So many of us are hurt by old wounds that never properly healed. The people who hurt the most, hurt others. Almost all horrendous acts done by humankind are rooted in hurt individuals who look to cause suffering to others because they themselves are in so much pain.

I’m excited to share my journey to a more meaningful and peaceful life. I thank you all for reading this blog post. By reading this post, you help me live out my purpose to alleviate suffering in all living beings.

“When we learn how to suffer, we suffer much less.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

With the Aloha Spirit,

Johnny Hoffman

Resistance: The Root of Pain, Suffering, and Insanity.

We are either resisting life or accepting it.

Whether that be sitting in traffic, aging, sickness, or our own mortality. Many ignore the truth and live in an imaginary world of what life is supposed to be or should be. Anytime you say should or suppose to be, you are resisting the truth. Resistance to the truth of life causes suffering. So why do people choose resistance? Accepting the truth is scary while resisting gives us a false sense of security and control. It’s easier in the short-term to avoid or resist aging, disease, and death than accept it. In the long-term, it can cause a tremendous amount of suffering within you and the world.

Suffering = Pain x Resistance 

  • The world should be at peace, but it isn’t.
  • My parents should be supportive, but they’re not.
  • I shouldn’t be stuck in traffic, but I am.
  • Relationships aren’t supposed to be this difficult, but it is. 

Here is an example that will show you exactly what I’m talking about.

Jack and Jill are both studying for a Biology final at Harvard. Both don’t enjoy studying, it causes them both mental and physical pain to sit down for 5 hours in a room. They would rather be outside on a hike or hanging out with friends. Jill accepts that this necessary to pass the class while Jack resists and complains the whole time. Jill is at peace and actually enjoying studying, taking breaks to watch Netflix or call a friend. Jack sulks and stares at the book. They are both in the same exact situation, only Jill accepts the pain of studying and makes the best of it.

The most impressive study of acceptance vs. resistance is Victor Frankl’s story in his 1959 book Man Searching for Meaning. Victor Frankl was an Austrian Jewish neurologist, psychiatrist, and holocaust survivor. While at Auschwitz concentration camp he kept himself sane by studying fellow inmates behavior and noticed an astonishing correlation. Those prisoners who accepted their truth and found meaning were both healthier and happier than those who resisted their new life. Their suffering was caused by their resistance to life and not mere outside influences. If someone can find peace, purpose, and meaning in Auschwitz concentration camp there is hope for all of us.

But Johnny, shouldn’t we resist harmful situations?? Isn’t acceptance just giving up? I don’t want to lay down and give up!

I understand this perspective because I once believe that acceptance was giving up but nothing is further from the truth. We must accept our situation before we can make it better. The people who accepted their captivity in Auschwitz were not merely giving up but awakening to that they have no control over being prisoners in a concentration camp. What these prisoners did have control over was how they spent their time, how they perceived their circumstance, and to make the best out of it. They saw resistance as a waste of energy on what they could not control. Accepting the truth is both practical and logical for peace within.

Paradoxically, we must accept suffering before we can transcend it. We have to accept our suffering before we can be at peace with ourselves and the world. Accept that you have no control over other people’s actions and beliefs. Accept that everything is impermanent and that we can only control a small amount of our life.

Try to avoid all should or suppose to be statements. Ease your grip on life and how it’s “suppose” or “should” be. More acceptance and less resistance is key to a peaceful life with less suffering and more joy.

My mission is to alleviate suffering in all living beings.

“What we resist, will persist.” – Carl Jung

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

 

Gambling: Just One More Hit.

As a child, I would bet on anything. I once bet my friend $10 that it wouldn’t rain that day. I played Poker with my friends every week and would illegally play online Poker through PokerStars when I was 13 years old. I was so happy to turn 18 years old so I could go to the Indian Casino. I went to Vegas every 6 months from age 21-23.

I want to be vulnerable with my readers. I believe vulnerability is our biggest strength. Here is my open and honest story of my addiction to gambling.

I struggled with being addicted to gambling all throughout my early adulthood. From 18-24 years old I probably lost more than 10 thousand dollars on Blackjack, Poker, and online sports gambling.  My family and friends knew I liked to gamble but didn’t realize how far gone I was. I hid my gambling addiction very well from my family because how ashamed I was of it. I knew I was out of control but didn’t know how to be open and honest about my problems. I was a man, and men don’t talk about their pain and struggles. I felt angry, alone, and depressed with no one to turn to. I couldn’t play the victim card because this was all self-induced suffering. This made me feel worthless and even more ashamed of the man I had become.

At my worst, I was gambling 7 days a week. I would do anything to get my high and to escape my life. I would max out my debit card limit and get $500 more from a high-interest cash advance. I remember leaving the casino depressed, stressed, and on the verge of a mental breakdown. I would yell “FUCK” as loud as I could in my car until my voice would crack and tears would roll down my cheek. This would be the average self-dialog after a loss while driving home.

You’re pathetic. How could you lose again? You piece of shit! What the hell are you thinking?!? Fuck life and everything. You don’t deserve Alicia (fiance). You don’t deserve anything! You’re worthless! You can’t tell anyone about this. Think of a lie…….. (one hour later)……I get paid Friday, I’ll win it back!!! Yeah, Ill win it all back and stop playing. I’ll win 1K and not play for a while. 

I would repeat this cycle of anger, shame, and denial. Gambling wasn’t the deep issue though, it was the symptom of a larger problem. I only gambled because I felt alone and depressed about my own life. Gambling was a coping mechanism for depression and anxiety. I felt so alive at the blackjack table and all my worries would momentarily go away. I was always looking forward to going to Las Vegas every 6 months. Like any addiction, I was chasing that high of dopamine. Soon I was betting $200 a hand on blackjack. There was one night that is stuck in my memory and shows how far my addiction had come.

In early 2012 I was planning on buying my girlfriend an engagement ring. This was at the peak of my addiction. I thought it would be a good idea to go gambling with the $3,000 cash I had taken out to buy the ring. I go to my usual Casino and put $500 dollars on blackjack. I figure I could win some more money and buy a bigger ring, a delusional justification. I was gambling because I love my girlfriend… Our minds can justify any bad decision. Anyways, I lose the $500 quickly and start putting more and more money on the table. Suddenly I’m down from $3000 to a total of $100. It’s 1am already and I’m in a deep fog, I say fuck it and go all in and win. I kept doubling my bet and kept winning. After 3 more hours of gambling, I get all my $3000 and leave the casino at 4am. I drive to the Bay Area immediately and buy the engagement ring. Sounds like a scene in a casino movie right?

Two years go by and I graduate from college. I was so busy with work, college, and my fiance that I didn’t have time to gamble. I thought I was cured of my addiction and that I could start playing Draft Kings and Fan Duel. Both sites are legal online sports gambling that plays well for young men who like to play fantasy football. I graduated from Cal Poly and received $500 in graduation money from friends and family. I had so much free time now that I was done with college. I spent that time gambling on Draft Kings and becoming absolutely obsessed with trying to win money on NBA games. I was checking my phone at least 100 times a day, looking for those small dopamine rushes when my teams were playing well. After two months of online sports gambling, I had lost all my graduation money. I was deeply ashamed of myself and was contemplating suicide. I had been lying to my fiance already about my infidelity and my gambling addiction. I felt so alone and depressed that I couldn’t hold onto this pain anymore. I finally open up about my secret life to my fiance, family, and friends. I finally could heal myself of the deep emotional wounds that were festering inside my soul. Honesty and vulnerability are so powerful. Being vulnerable can help us connect with each other in a deep and profound human level instead of the vapid surface.

Being vulnerable is seen as being weak, but it’s actually our greatest strength.

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

Distraction: How do we Stay Focused on What Really Matters?

Welcome to the 21 Century! A time period defined by its distractions, whether that be social media, Netflix, YouTube, 24 hour News, virtual reality, or video games.

Humans have been distracting themselves since the beginning of recorded human history, whether that be Roman gladiators or Netflix. Distractions can benefit society, allow for people to relax and decompress from the daily stress of life. Distractions themselves are not the problem, it’s the amount of time consumed distracting oneself. We live in a time period where there is an unlimited amount of distraction and entertainment, which becomes addictive. The high from binge-watching Breaking Bad can feel so good at first, but after spending all day on the couch, we feel horrible. This concept is known as diminishing returns. Diminishing returns is when adding more of an activity actually decreasing the amount of return. For example, 1 alcoholic beverage might bring joy but 20 drinks could lead to alcohol poisoning, at some point consuming more alcohol led to an adverse effect. The phrase “Less Is More” seems fitting.

With freedom, comes responsibility. 

We have the freedom to spend most of our waking time on Netflix while only eating Butterfingers, Taco Bell, and Coors Light. I truly believe that we are blessed and cursed with this freedom. It is a blessing to live in a country where you can choose your own path, express yourself, and consume what you want without Government control. I’m very grateful for this freedom but with this freedom comes responsibility for us to regulate our habits and behaviors. I don’t think most of us have been taught self-control because our culture of consumerism frowns upon self-restraint and responsible living. The rise of Minimalism is a direct response to this culture of unsustainable consumption. We have to regulate our two most valuable commodities, time and attention. We only have a finite amount of time and attention so we must choose wisely how we spend it. It saddens me how much time I have spent on social, media, Netflix, and watching sports when I could have been contributing, growing, and spending time with people that I love.

It’s not about cutting out all these distractions, but regulated and deciding what brings value to your life. Write down what your activities are throughout the week and you will how much time you spend distraction yourself. Here is an example.

Activities Per Week

Current                              Vision

Netflix  10 hours              Netflix 2 hours

Youtube 5 hours               YouTube 1 hour

Facebook 4 hours         Facebook 2 hours

Football 6 hours           Football  4 hours

Family 3 hours             Family 12hours

Passions 1 hour           Passions  10 hours

It’s not about cutting everything our life but regulating the distractions so they don’t make up a majority of our free time. What we are passionate about will thrive if we cut out the excess of distractions. Without the endless distractions, we can spend more time connecting with our family, friends, and significant others. Our life will have more meaning and less emptiness.

We all have the same 24 hours, let’s make the best use of it.

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

 

Enlightenment: Consistency, Hardwork, and Falling Down Over & Over Again. 

I define enlightenment as having overall peace, clarity, and contentment in life. It is not separate from the world or only for spiritual gurus. It’s achievable for everyone.
In February of 2015 I awoke to the truth of what my life had become. At 24 years old I was overweight, unhappy, and anxious. For the previous two years I had been constantly numbing myself with gambling, cigarettes, alcohol, over-work, and fast food. I did this because I hated who I had become and wanted to avoid thinking about my actions. This all changed when I admitted to my ex-fiance that I cheated on her. I also had been hiding this secret life from my family and friends. Instead of running from the pain, I sat with it and was transformed. Sitting with the pain allowed me to see the truth of my past and present situation. There was no one else to blame but myself for how my life had unfolded, I was only victim to my own unskillful actions. Self-compassion​ and forgiveness were some of the hardest things to cultivate after the many years of negative self-talk. I was so miserable that I had to take action to improve my life. My old life wasn’t produces the results I wanted so I knew I had to change. I felt like an empty canvas. Ready to start new habits and have an open mind to new ideas.

In the following months I changed my life. I meditated an hour a day, eat healthy, worked out, volunteered, and started reading Buddhist philosophy. A book titled Buddhist Bootcamp by Timber Hawkeye changed my mindset from entitled to grateful. The book helped me forgive myself of my wrongdoings and show self-compassion. I lost 35 pounds and felt amazing spiritual, physically, and emotional. I felt peace I had never felt in my life. I felt enlightened.

Fast forward to November 2015 and I’m drinking right after work, smoking cigarettes, gambling, and partying every Friday and Saturday night. So what happened?? How can you go from feeling  enlightened to partying in a couple months. It was quite easy actually, it all started with thinking I was cured of my suffering. That I didn’t need meditation, exercise, and I could relax my diet. I also took a sales job which I knew deep down would cause me suffering. I was soon depressed, lonely, and miserable again.

A few more months pass and I hit another rock bottom around March 2016. This one wasn’t as harsh because I knew what I had to do. I had a template of how to decrease my suffering and be at peace again. I once again started meditation, long walks in nature, working out and eating right. I felt good again and was at peace. Old habits don’t die easy though because this peace did not last long.

I move to San Jose in August 2016. Sadly, I don’t even try to connect with the community or try to make new friends. I felt lonely once again and start drinking more often. This was a time of nothingness, of no growth and very little memories. Maybe it was meant to be this way, a time where I could make my next move. I decided I wanted to move to Maui in December of 2016.

From Jan-April 2017 all my focus was on saving money to move to Maui. I was blessed to be around my family and friends back in Sacramento,CA though which helped me feel connected. My diet was horrible though and once again was overweight. I moved to Maui in April 2017 with my eyes wide open! I felt a sense of exploration and joy.

I fall once again into old habits. Soon I’m smoking cigarettes, drinking tons of alcohol, and eating spam musibis. I feel anxious, stressed, and lonely once again. I knew something had to change and fast. My first step was my health. I decided after watching the documentary Forks Over Knifes that I would persue a more plant-based diet. I switched my diet to a pescetarian diet, meaning I only eat fish, dairy, fruits, vegatables and legumes. I lose 25lbs and feel amazing. Presently I’m working on becoming a vegan and becoming more active in my local community. I meditate, write, read and go on long walks every day. I’m working on getting stronger by going to the gym regularly. I still feel lonely at times and would love to meet other like-minded people on Maui. This is my next step to feeling a sense of community on Maui.

Big picture take away from this post is that peace, enlightenment, contentment or what ever you want to call it takes hardwork, consistency, and you will fall down alot. The key is to rise everytime you fall. Don’t judge your unskillful actions but learn from them. Find a template that works for you to thrive and try to follow it as best as you can. I’m just sharing my template in hope that you can take one piece of it and apply it to your life.

Growth is life. If we are not growing we are dying.

With Aloha,

Jonathan Hoffman