What’s Your Dream?

This blog post is about the new American dream and my perspective on it. This post is not to demonize the traditional American dream or to tell you there is a “right” or “wrong” way to live your life. There are many different paths up the mountain.

 

Every decision leads to another. Even the smallest of steps can lead to a big decision in our life. Much of our lives are spent preparing, enduring, and recuperating from changes in our life. Suffering occurs when we resist the inevitable changes in our inner or outer environment. Our dreams change as well. Many achieve celebrity and find out they are even more miserable than before. We must adapt and change with our dreams.

Complacence and stagnation is the easiest route but in the long run, they often lead to disappointing results. Often the more difficult route leads to joy, contentment, and freedom. Freedom, in my opinion, is the most important concept for humanities overall happiness. Freedom is the American Dream. More importantly, freedom is the dream of all sentient beings.

I distinctly remember at 12 or 13 years old learning about the reality of the American dream. At this point in my childhood, I realized that the American dream sounded like a nightmare!! The American dream was not my dream. To work a job I disliked for 40 plus years and buy a house that would take 30 years to pay off sounded horrifying. I couldn’t believe that most people wanted this out of their one life. I wanted something different out of my life; to experience true freedom. But as the years went by, I slowly accepted my fate and forgot about my dreams of freedom. By the time I was 17, I wanted to be a millionaire with a wife and kids by the time I was 30 years old. In retrospect, I just wanted to fit in with societal norms. Societal norms are taught to us at an early age by family, teachers, commercials, tv shows, and movies. They shape our perspective at an early age. We end up accepting these norms to fit in so we don’t feel like an outcast. It’s ingrained in our DNA to want to be accepted so we are cast out of our tribe, which would end in our death. In our modern society, we have the freedom to question all societal norms and seek out like-minded individuals who share similar values.

In the past 3 years, I have questioned much of what I learned as a child/young adult about what success is. Is success having a career, wife, and two kids? Do I want a life blanketed with security or a life flourishing with freedom? Luckily my immediate family did not reinforce societal norms and thus allowed me to have an open mind. It was much easier for me to break out of the societal norms with a supportive and understanding family/friends. The biggest realization I have had was that my true dream is similar to what I enjoyed as a kid. I was mesmerized by maps, globes, and open space; now my dream is to travel and works remotely around the world. In many ways, my journey has allowed me to embrace my inner child. The child who was curious and open to new experiences. The inner child was just suffocated by fear, doubt, and worry.

I value freedom over security. I value love over fear; curiosity over indifference. With a shift of perspective comes a shift in our dreams. New possibilities can bring joy instead of fear. Your American dream is whatever you want it to be. Just remember each decision is ours to make and ours to take responsibility for.

Do you truly want freedom? Whats your dream? What must you let go of for you to live the life you want to live?

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

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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

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

 

 

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

Authentic Living: Are your Actions Inline with your Values?

Aloha!

In this week’s blog post I want to discuss values, authenticity, and how it can benefit you and the world around us. Authentic living is trending in the mindfulness community because many of us are awakening to the unauthentic world around us. A world where corporations, politicians, and celebrities say one thing but their actions show their true intentions. Let’s not blame them though, we are the problem but also the solution. I’m 27 years old and most of my adult life I have lived an unauthentic life. I portrayed myself as a man with good values but my actions showed otherwise. An unauthentic life caused great anxiety, stress, and fed my gambling addiction as well as many unhealthy habits. Here are some of the unskillful actions that I have done in life.

  • Cheated, lied, and misled my ex-fiance.
  • Lied to my mom, dad, brother, best friend, and to myself.
  • Littered and mistreated the environment.
  • Treated women like sex-objects.
  • Lost thousands of dollars gambling.
  • Abused my body with fast food, processed meat, and an absurd amount of alcohol.

There are no excuses for my unauthentic and unskillful actions. I am sorry. I will do better.

I know now that my actions matter. Living authentically is living in line with your values. The first step is to find out what your values are and write them down. In my early 20’s I didn’t even know my values which led to many unskillful actions. I might have told you that I valued my health but then go drink 10 Coors lights and eat a whole meat lovers pizza. With the help of Author Timber Hawkeye and “The Minimalists”, I have established what my values are. The next step is to cross-reference my actions with my values and see if they are in line. Here are my foundational values, the ones that define who I am.

  • Love
  • Compassion
  • Growth
  • Contribution
  • Relationships
  • Health

Authentic living isn’t about living a perfect life in which all your actions are perfectly in line with your values. That’s a sure way to live a very discontented life. Authentic living is about mindfully looking at your life and intentionally changing it to who you want to become. You would be surprised how small steps in the right direction can lead to astonishing results. Leading to a less stressed and more content you.

I wanted to end this post with an example of how I live a more authentic life. Over the last six months, I have slowly transitioned to a plant-based diet with a small amount of fish and dairy. I cut out meat because it’s not in-line with my values of compassion and health. Factory farms are disturbing and cause great suffering to animals, workers, and the environment. I have compassion for these animals as living beings who don’t deserve to suffer. I know that the dairy industry and fishing can cause suffering as well, hence why I’m slowly cutting down my consumption to soon become a vegan. I cross-reference every action with my values and try my best to act accordingly. From the clothes I wear, the bed I sleep on, my toothpaste, and the food I put in my body. I feel less anxious and more at peace when my actions are in-line with my values. By changing your actions you are in fact changing the world.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

With Aloha,

Jonathan Hoffman

 

Less is More: My Journey to Minimalism. 

When I was a child, I always enjoyed my father’s house. He didn’t clutter his living space with tons of trinkets and photos, instead he had a few golf paintings and only the essential. I didn’t realize it then, but it was the first indicator that I was in fact a minimalist. My parents divorced when I was young so I spent every other weekend with my dad. He was a minimalist before it was cool, before it was labeled as a fringe group which is slowly turning into a more mainstream philosophy.

Before the 1970’s, almost everyone was a minimalist. It wasn’t until manufacturing went to China, India, etc that material goods became so cheap and available. This cheap manufacturing has led to today, where the average American household has 300,000 items. Advertisements tell us that we need to buy, buy, buy and that we NEED this new item even though we survived without it’s existence.

I didn’t fully embrace minimalism until my ex-fiance and I broke up. You see, she owned 95% of our stuff when we broke up. Everything in the house was either brought by her or gifts from her family. When she left, I was left alone in the studio we once shared. She was gracious enough to leave 1 fork, knife, spoon, pot, and pan. I didn’t have internet/TV and I slept on an air mattress. I lived like this for 6 months and suprisingly I thrived. Less distractions made it easier to focus on the essential. I enjoyed cleaning more because I had less to clean. I focused on my diet which led to me losing 30 lbs. With no internet, I spent more time outdoors or working out (best shape of my life). With no TV, I started reading books and learning knowledge that I now share on this blog. I even volunteered for the Special Olympics because I had more time to contribute outside myself. Since moving to Maui, I’m slowly relearning these lessons and cultivating some of the skills I learned in that 6 month minimalist boot camp.

Less is more. Less distraction, more passion. Less debt, more freedom. Less clutter, more focus.

With Aloha,

Jonathan Hoffman

The Mindfulness Awakening.

We are living in the midst of the mindfulness awakening.  This movement is a direct backlash to the mindless practices of the 20th century. The food we consume and the institutions we support matter. Our food matters. The latter part of the 20th century was a time of greed and exploitation leading to factory farms, sweatshops, and the highly processed diet of the western diet. These practices have led to the suffering of the environment, animals, and humanity. When we harm the environment, we harm ourselves. When we cause suffering to animals, we cause suffering to ourselves. Everything is connected.

Family farms turned into factory farms, which brutally massacre and cause great suffering to chickens, cows, and pigs. These factory farms cause great suffering to the animals, the workers, and the environment. The sewage runoff contaminating freshwater rivers and lakes while killing thousands of fish. The factory farm workers are usually illegal immigrants who have to deal with psychological and physical damage from unethical working standards.

Starting in the 1970’s, the government gave huge subsidies to farms to increase corn, soy, and wheat production. This cheap corn, soy, and wheat are then processed into most of the foods we see at the grocery store and at fast food chains. These government subsidies coincide with the rise of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

In the same time frame, we saw the rise of cheap material goods made in China, Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh. These sweatshops use unfair labor practices and cause suffering to their employees. The rise of cheap goods has led to the hoarding movement of 1990’s. The average American household has 300,000 items, most which find their way into landfills.

There is hope.

Organic locally run farms are popping up all over the country and companies like The Ocean Cleanup are devoted to cleaning up the environment. Movements like minimalism and plant-based diets are growing exponentially. We the consumers can change the future with our wallets and conscious. I have adopted a pescetarian diet with plans on going vegan in the near future. I support ethical clothing companies like Conscious Apparel. I buy Tom’s toothpaste and deodorant which doesn’t test their products on animals. I buy organic foods as much as possible. By changing your habits you are in fact changing the world. Knowledge isn’t powerful unless there is direct action. Once we have knowledge we have a choice on how we live our life. 

There is no difference between healing the planet and healing ourselves.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

With Aloha,

Jonathan Hoffman