The Blog

Unexpected Kindness

Ben Rector Uptown Theater March 2016

It's no secret I'm a Ben Rector fan. More than one of his songs has inspired a blog post. One of his song lyrics has been used on a greeting card. I've photographed a couple of his concerts in the past (1 + 2). The man just knows how to write a killer song, put on a great show and sing his ass off. 

The first time Jenny + I saw him live was way back in 2011 at the Beaumont club. I remember he quieted the crowd and asked if he could play a new song. He then played Forever Like That, and I remember dancing with Jenny near the back of the club. I closed my eyes and it felt like it was just the two of us, Ben + his guitar singing a sweet little love song. The whole world slowed down for those few minutes. That will forever be one of the greatest moments at any concert I've ever been to.

This past Saturday, Ben Rector was playing at the Uptown Theater. Jenny + I had talked about going, but decided we didn't have the money to spend on concert tickets right now, so I never got tickets. Last Wednesday, something told me we had to go. So I decided to try and surprise Jenny with 2 tickets. But the show was sold out, and the cheapest tickets on Stubhub were around $60 a piece. Can't do that. I did what anyone upset about something silly like this would do and posted about it on facebook.

That's when a friend went out of her way, contacted someone she knew at the Uptown and got us 2 tickets. Unexpected kindness. I kept it a secret to Jenny right up until the point on Saturday night when she started to get upset thinking I went ahead and bought overpriced tickets on Stubhub. We had a blast singing our hearts out and dancing together. And, yes, he did play Forever Like That, and it was still magical.

I share this story because it got me thinking about all the different ways we can impact another's life. I sometimes get caught up in wanting to do big things for others...and I let the fact I don't have a lot of expendable income right now stop me and get me frustrated into not acting at all. 

But unexpected kindness doesn't always have to cost a lot of money. Write a note on a piece of paper and leave it somewhere. Give compliments every time you think of one...seriously, how many times do you think something nice about someone but keep your mouth shut? Buy someone's cup of coffee. Grab a sharpie and a rock and write some encouragement on it for someone to find. Smile more. Hold doors open. Help someone load their car at the grocery store. Make a piece of art for someone. Turn your phone off or leave it in the car and give a listening ear. 

The point is...unexpected kindness takes a little bit of effort but has maximum impact. It took my friend sending a simple message and Jenny + I had an unforgettable evening, no cost to her but a few minutes of her time. There are SO many ways we can impact other folks' lives like that.

The best part, at least to me, is that you might not ever know how your actions or words affected someone else. Think about a time when someone unexpectedly gave you some kindness. How did it affect your day? How did you feel inside? Did you pass it on to someone else? Wouldn't it be great if we all spent a few minutes a day and did something kind for someone else, just because the world can always use more kindness? Think about all the little ripples of positive energy we'd be sending out into the world.

I'd love to hear some ways you've incorporated unexpected kindness into your lives...

Josh Solar
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On Deep Breaths + Letting Go

Dad snuggling with his children
I recently shared the above picture taken on my 35th birthday, and someone asked if I had any advice for 30 year olds. First off, in no way shape or form would I ever consider myself an expert at doing this whole life thing, but I took a moment and thought asked myself if I had any advice. I answered, "Let that shit go + breathe deeper." 

Again, I don't have it all figured out. I don't think I've gleamed any sort of secret to life that others don't have access to. I just try and do the best I can, choose kindness and love over fear and anger and make gratitude and forgiveness a daily practice. I can think of numerous times in the past where letting go and taking deep breaths has really saved me a whole lot of pain and discomfort. Like the time I ended a long night of fighting by pausing. Or the time Lia shared a lesson with Jenny about deep breathing.

Just Monday night Jenny + I were talking about when we're in a disagreement, or even in a heated argument that I don't chase after her right away when she leaves the room. Or if she leaves the house angry, I don't call/text right away. It's not because I want her to go or I don't want to make up. It's because in the heat of the moment, I want to take back the reins from the irrational side of my brain. I want to move through all the horrible, terrible things I would say if I tried to communicate while still taken over by my amygdala, and communicate from a place of love. 

The key is found in how does one move from letting the amygdala control our brain to functioning from the pre-frontal cortex. I once read that when our fight or flight mechanisms are in control it's like there's a fire going off in our brain. And we need to put the fires out so we can think/act from a calmer state (you can thank Goldie Hawn and her amazing book, 10 Mindful Minutes, for that analogy). To put the fires out, you simply pause and focus on your breath.

The trick is making the conscious decision to slow down and take deep breaths, though. It's so much easier to just say the mean and hurtful things. It's so much easier to want to 'win' the argument. It's so much easier to shout and be loud to get your point across. And that's where letting go comes in.

I've found over and over again, the times when I let go of the need to win and be in control, the tough situations end a lot sooner and with way less hurt involved. Yes, in life, my feelings are going to be hurt. I'm going to feel left out, or that people I love are prioritizing other things over what I want or consider priority. There are times in my life I'm going to be upset. If I choose to act when those types of thoughts are running through my head, it will most likely end up in a drawn out fight/argument where everyone involved is on a downward spiral to worse than before.

Here's where it comes full circle. By pausing for a few minutes and choosing to focus on my breath, it becomes easier to let go of the need to control, to win, to hurt another. By taking those few moments and not going right after Jenny or making that call in anger or sending that text out of the need to be right, I can listen to all the fear based and angry thoughts running through my head and move to a place where I'm confident enough to tell that part of my brain I don't want to live my life like that. I can say all those things to myself, before engaging withy my loved ones or the offending party, so that when I do engage back in the conversation, I can do so from a calmer state with the pre frontal cortex in charge

I still slip up at times. I still say things out of anger. I still hurt others. I'm not perfect. It is darn hard to pause in the heat of the moment. It's hard to remove yourself from the situation. It's hard to let go of the need to be right. It's hard to let go of the need to win. But, to me, one of the main reasons Jenny + I work, as a couple, as parents, as business partners, is because we can take these pauses (deep breaths), let go and re-engage from a calmer mindset. Like most things in life that are worth doing, it takes hard work, commitment and love.

My wish for you is that the next time you find yourself in a situation where your anger is starting to take hold of your brain...your muscles are tightening and your blood pressure is rising and you just want to hurt another...my wish is for you to pause for 2-5 minutes. Take deep breaths and see if it's easier to let go of whatever it is that set you off in the first place. I can tell you from first hand experience, my life is infinitely better the more I practice breathing deep and letting go.
Josh Solar
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There is No Turning Back, Only Going Through

Today is my 35th birthday. I've been taking a good look at my life, how I got here and where I want to go. Last week, I shared about how I've been working on owning my faults. I'm very much a work in progress, but I believe with love, compassion and kindness leading me, I'll get exactly where I'm supposed to be in life. Which leads me to this week's thoughts...that once you start down a path of a full and meaningful life, you can't ever turn back. 

I am constantly fighting back thoughts/lies of not enough-ness. I am constantly not giving myself the grace I give to others. I lose my patience and hurt others, both with my actions and my words. I'm not perfect, nor will I ever be.

You see, once I started down this path of genuine connection/vulnerability/curiosity, it lead me to some startling truths about how I was living my life. I wasn't being honest, with others or myself, about what I wanted my life to look like or how I wanted to feel on a daily basis. I watched a lot of tv. Spent a lot of time with people who led pretty unremarkable lives (which is ok, if you want that sort of thing). I kept my dreams tucked safely inside, thinking if no one knew what they were, then I didn't have to pursue them and I couldn't fail. And the people I was spending time with never challenged me to do anything better with my time. I just felt off, bored and like something was missing. 

So I started asking...

  • How do I want to feel when I wake up in the morning?
  • If I died tomorrow, would I have any regrets?
  • If I knew I couldn't fail, what would I be doing with my life?
  • What lights me up?

When I started asking myself those types of questions, it led me to analyze the way I spent my time and I realized how off the answers were to how I actually lived. I needed to find a community of like minded souls, who would challenge me and push me and support me (hello What If!). The answers to those questions led me to start making more art, something I loved so much as a kid but stopped, because, well, life. I found myself in more fulfilling conversations, doing more fun + life giving things. I found I laughed more, danced more, kissed my wife more. Life felt FUN!

Then the doubt creeps in. You know those moments where you question why you're the special one who's life should feel good. Who am I to pursue my dreams? This life you've built is a sham. And there's always some moments of doubt. I'll never understand why we're wired that way. But in those moments, the dark ones, you'll randomly get reminders at just the right time to keep you going through. Maybe it's a book and a few notes, one being a coupon to come and help out when we feel like we're done. Maybe it's a couple of brightly colored rocks with some words of encouragement that were mailed to you all the way from Australia. Maybe it's a friend buying your green juice at your Tuesday morning get togethers. I don't know what those reminders will look like for you, but they're there, somewhere.

Papered Thoughts pen pal, happy rock art.

It's in those moments, you find the strength to keep going, because there's no turning back. You must keep pressing in. You must keep opening yourself up. You must keep showing up for life, day after day after day, because the risks you took to get to all the beauty and connection and joy and wonder has been worth all the heartaches and stumbles and failures. I know these things to be true. 

So I say to you, whatever you're going through, I believe in you. You are a remarkable soul. Just do your best with the knowledge you have and know that is enough. A good friend of mine once wrote, "This world is amazing & you'll forget that again & again your whole life. But if you remember more than you forget, you'll be fine." Remember how loved you are. Remember the good things that miraculously show up for you when you need them most. You've got this.

Josh Solar
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Owning My Faults

the speaker listener technique for good communication

I'm a self-proclaimed fixer and not always the best listener. I'm not proud of it, what with all the times I've shared about the struggles Jenny + I have faced in our marriage this last year. It wasn't until a week spent apart from one another, Jenny at home in KC and me in the mountains with some good dudes, that I fully realized all the times I've caused Jenny pain and suffering through this process of healing she's working through. My therapist says I have good intentions, which I do, but something is getting lost in translation. 

I've decided to stop focusing on all the things wrong with my life, and things I find wrong with the loved ones in my life, and just own my own poop. Why did it take me so long to realize that I was hurting myself and others and life really isn't out to get me

Why has it taken me so long to see the little pieces of encouragement I leave in letters for strangers I was withholding from Jenny? How is it fair that I let everyone else know they're doing the best they can yet push Jenny over and over to try harder...to do more. It's not right. I was ruining the thing I cherish most in my life...my relationship with my wife. I wasn't listening to what she has been trying to tell me. I'd been trying to fit Jenny inside this idea of what I think her life should look like.

So, I came home from 5 days in Breckenridge, ready to re-commit to her. Ready to own my issues, and overcome them. Ready to love and support her in ways that feel like love and support to her. There were numerous moments I wanted to take a shuttle in to Denver and fly home early, yet Jenny made it clear if I did that, she would feel like she ruined my trip. And I was torn, because I didn't want to be there, I wanted to be with her, but she wanted me to stay in the mountains. Like most women, she knew what was best for me, even when I didn't. So I listened to her, even though it was really hard for me to know my heart wanted to be somewhere else.

Here's what I learned I needed to do, and that if I didn't, I would lose my wife. I needed to listen. I needed to have patience and empathy and compassion. I needed to stop suggesting things Jenny should or shouldn't be doing. I needed to keep my mouth shut and my arms open, ready to hold her tight and listen to whatever she had to say. Most importantly, I needed to trust Jenny in the fact she knows what's best for her. She knows what she can handle, and I have to not flood or overwhelm her with other stuff.  

It's now been 11 days since I've been home, and besides 1 slip up on my part, things have been great. It feels like we're on the same team again. There have been numerous times since I've been home where in the past we would've ended up in an argument, mad at one another and staying up late yelling about the same crap, but that hasn't happened yet because I have kept my trap shut and truly listened to her. And here's the thing I find most interesting. Jenny is and always was working so hard, but in the last few weeks she's had more energy to try new things for healing (meditation!, acupuncture!!, giving up soda and gluten!!!!!!!!!!!). Jenny has more love for me, knowing I'm a safe space for her and not one of hostility and pain. It's become a circle, but instead of one of confusion and hurt, it's of support and love, for both of us.

It seems to me the second I tried to stop forcing her into a certain box I thought she should fit in, things got better, for all of us. Is there still work to do? Heck yes. I'm always going to be a work in progress, so is Jenny, and so are you reading this. But, things feel good. I'm waking up happy and filled with hope, ready to see what the day brings. Just a few weeks ago I was waking up frustrated, filled with anger and wanting the day to be over as fast as possible. It seems like there might be some truth in the saying about letting go of things outside of your control and listening to what's right in front of you

I have a good friend named Graham who told me about a Speaker/Listener technique he uses with his wife to help them communicate better. It's as simple as this...

  • As the Speaker - speak for yourself only, keep your statements brief and stop to let the listener paraphrase.
  • As the Listener - paraphrase what you're hearing, focus on the speaker's message without rebutting.
  • Other rules - speaker always has the floor, speaker keeps the floor while listener paraphrases, and always share the floor.

I don't think Jenny even knows I've been doing this lately, but I've seen firsthand how effectively it's helped us. 

I'm sure I have other faults and plenty to work on, but right now, owning my fault of a need for control and letting go of my self-serving nature to serve my wife are my focus. I know the work is hard, but I know I can do hard things. 

I share this story because I would love it if you took a few moments to see if you can identify anything you're doing that might be causing you pain, hurt or confusion in your life. Try and identify a fault or two of yours and commit to working on them. 

A bit of advice before I end this rambling. Make sure you give yourself some grace throughout this process. We're all growing and learning and doing the best we can with what information we have available to us. And that means we'll sometimes make some mistakes. It's ok, though. No one is perfect. Forgive your past mistakes and move on knowing you're trying your hardest. I know you can do it.

Josh Solar
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Life Lessons from Sal the Pal

sal the pal, an amazing man i met in mexico

There I was tired, hot, hungry and sweaty from painting a dorm and mixing cement for a pig pen. I'd been working in the heat for 4 hours and was ready for a nap, or at the very least, a long relaxing ride back to the hotel. That's when life swooped in with other plans.

I was in Cancun for the What If Conference (some thoughts on last year's experience can be found here). It was Doing More day, where we, as a group, find folks in need and help them however we can. This was our second year in a row in Cancun, so we decided to go back to CIDA, an addiction rehab center that does some fantastic and challenging work. 

It was 5 pm and I was one of the last 6 folks there. We had a shuttle out front to take us back to the hotel, but no driver. At least, no driver we could find. Turns out, Sal, our driver, was inside talking to all the people about how he was addicted to drugs just 4 years ago. He was offering them hope, and letting them know how brave and courageous they were to seek healing from their addictions.

And that's how I met Sal the Pal. The man has an energy that's infectious. In the hour and 15 minutes or so I spent with him talking about life, I learned so much. So, I'd love to share with you a few things he taught me about life...

  • Share what you love with the world - Sal is a shuttle driver. He spends a lot of time taking people from place to place. He loves this because it gives him a chance to talk about all the things he loves. Sal is positive, upbeat, grateful and loves life. You can't help but feel those things emanate directly from the core of his being as he's sharing stories of his life.
  • Gratitude is where it's at - It's easy to focus on all the things I lack in life. Or to look at how things are going different than I expected and to get bummed out about it all. But Sal spoke a lot about being grateful for the life he's been given and the chance to be alive and sharing conversations with people from all over the world. It made me realize that I always have something to be grateful for. Just the fact I'm alive is a miracle enough to celebrate with some gratitude.
  • Energy is contagious - I was so exhausted and just wanted a quiet ride back to the hotel. I ended up in the front seat talking the whole time. Sal vibrates love and positivity and warmth and all those other feel good feels. I couldn't help but feel energized myself. It got me thinking about how both positive and negative energy can affect other's...and that I need to be intentional about the energy I bring to my life.
  • Being honest in who you are and sharing your struggles, gives other permission to do the same - Sal was vulnerable right from the moment we met him. He shared his struggles with addiction, and the changes in his life since he's 'healed his mind,' and that got me opening up as well. We talked a lot about the mind, and how we really can only control the thoughts we think about life's circumstances, nothing more. Sal being open and honest with all of us took the conversation to a whole new level.
  • Living a good story inspires others to do the same - Sal is living a good story. He's happy. He's grateful. He's excited about being alive. But hearing him share what he wanted, his goals, and the challenges he overcame to achieve those goals made his story have more impact. He's living a darn good life, happy doing what he loves and sharing his positivity whenever he can. I want to be more like Sal.
I truly feel we were supposed to meet and I was supposed to have that conversation. Sal the Pal serves as a reminder in so many ways that the principles I strive for in my life matter. That I can serve as a beacon of love and light for all, if I choose to show up, stay vulnerable and be honest in who I am. We're all better people when we share our stories with each other. And in times of doubt and struggle, if I'm not capable of showing up, others will show up for me. There lies the magic of life, my friends.

Note: I gave Sal the Pal my heart sunglasses, because I felt they totally fit his personality and style. I'll forever cherish this picture of the two of us.

Namasté,
Josh

Josh Solar
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Live Long + Radiantly

live long and radiantly monster encouragement doodle
I see you. Trying so hard to hide. But I see you.
You have a radiant light within you. It's there whether you see it or not. You cannot hide it from me.
You shine that light so bright each moment you choose to love.
You shine each and every time you choose to forgive, yourself and others.
You shine every time you show up, especially in the moments when it's a challenge just to leave the house.
Your light has shined from the moment you were born. And it'll shine until you take your last breath.
Your light is radiant.
You vibrate goodness + light + love. It's your natural rhythm.
I know life can be complicated and confusing sometimes. But it's in the moments when you say yes to something that could make the world a better place and no to things that don't that you tap into that deep, endless reservoir of radiant light within you.
Do you feel it?
Do you feel the warmth you bring?
Do you notice the ways your light and love can greatly impact those around you?
Do you realize how truly remarkable it is you are alive and able to help someone know they are loved + enough + not alone?
We're lucky we were born with a chance to make our lives meaningful. It's quite simple really. 
Shine your light. 
Shine your radiant light.
Live long and radiantly, my friend.
Josh Solar
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Do You Want to Know What Enlightenment Is?

close your eyes. breathe in the quiet. surrender.

I've found myself walking lately. Just wandering around and trying really hard to let go of my thoughts...

To clear my mind.

To see what comes up when I just focus on my breath.

Deep, deep breaths.

Long, slow, deep breaths.

Fully in. Fully out. 

Letting go of my desired outcomes.

Letting go of my thoughts.

Letting go of the need to be right or wrong.

Letting go of the need to 'fix' things.

Just me and my breath.

Fully in. Fully out.

Deeper and deeper within.

Letting go of my judgements, towards myself and others.

Forgiving my mistakes. Forgiving others of their mistakes.

Letting go. Letting go.

Thoughtless breaths.

It's there I find bliss.

It's there I find enlightenment.

Just a simple pause and a few deep breaths and the wonders of a perfectly imperfect and unpredictable world around me.

Gifts available to us every time we stop and take a moment to notice.

Thoughtless breath. 

Fully in. Fully out.

Bliss.

Repeat.

Josh Solar
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A Letter For You

letter of encouragement
I was having a rough day. Exhausted, mentally + physically and just needed to get out of the house. I got in the car and just drove. As I was driving, these words kept coming up, and I found myself wishing I'd have grabbed my bag of blank cards and pens before I left the house. Luckily, I found one pen and a slightly bent You are Loved card stuck in the cubby above the glove compartment. I pulled off to the side of the road and sloppily started writing...
Friend, 
I wish I could tell you how loved you are + you'd believe me and life would magically be perfect all of a sudden. I don't have that power but I can take a moment to let you know that even though you don't always feel it, you're ok. You're loved. You're enough. You're alive + here + doing the best you can. This world should ask nothing more from you than that. Hold on, my friend. I believe in you.
A friend
And I felt better afterwards. I don't ever understand why. I think I know why it feels good internally to write down some encouragement and leave it for a stranger, but I don't have proof. I ended up at a Barnes + Noble near me and stuffed it in a new book by Steve Kamb called Level Up Your Life, because, you know, if you're looking to level up your life, maybe some words of encouragement can help?

I share all this with you, because maybe you need some encouragement today? Maybe we all need some encouragement today. The world can never ever have enough love in it, can it? This week, I hope you wake up each morning knowing that even though your life isn't as perfect as you'd like, it's still a darn good feeling to be alive and know there are folks out there in the world who love you. And that's all life is about...
Josh Solar
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A Story About Marbles and Deep Breaths and the Love We're Born With

a story about marbles and deep breaths

Ah, if we could only love like children do....

Lia, our 7 year old, has these marbles she carries with her quite a bit (Side note: before I get to the point, I think it's pretty funny hearing her run around saying she's lost her marbles and has anyone seen them when she can't find them). They either came from a random spot at my parent's house, or she found them in a random geocache somewhere. Doesn't really matter. All that matters is they are special to her. 

Lia, more than either of our other 2 kids, is a feeler. She has the biggest heart of any kid I've ever met. She's also extremely passionate. She soaks up the energy from all of us, feeds off of it. If there's sadness or anger in the air, she'll feel it. If she's surrounded by love and happiness, she feels that, too. She's so young, she doesn't quite know how to handle all the emotions coming her way. I've been working with her on meditation, and how conscious, deep breaths can put the fires out when we're upset and calm us down. She's pretty reluctant to do the breathing, as she's normally caught up in the moment, but with patience, we get there. Max and Ava, on the other hand, are the quiet types. They're not as open about their feelings as Lia is, which isn't bad, just different.

This is where the marbles come into play. I'm pretty open about the state of affairs in our house. It's been a rough go as we all try and love each other well through all the hardships and challenges we're currently facing as a family. We're trying to meet Jenny where she is and offer our love and support through all of the grief and trauma she's battling. But it's hard. Really hard. Especially for our kids who've been wrapped in nothing but love their whole lives. I can't imagine what it must be like to watch their mom go through all of this.

Which brings me to Monday evening. Mom is on the ground crying. I'm telling her all the things she does so well for us, yet again. You see, Jenny doesn't think she's a good mom. She feels she's failing as a wife. She tells me all the time she doesn't deserve the love she receives...that she's a failure and letting everyone down. While I don't agree with any of those negative statements, Jenny believes them, and that's where the kids come in...

Max, our sweet 11 year old, struggles to find the words to say when he sees his mom hurting and crying. But he knows his hugs make a difference. So he comes in to just wrap his arms around his mother. He doesn't say anything, but he does keep his arms wrapped around her as tight as he can and snuggles his head right into hers.

Lia then comes in, carrying her marbles. "Mom, when I'm upset, I hold these marbles in my hands and do my breathing. It always calms me down. I want you to have them." Lia gets so sad seeing her mom like this. She wanted to give Jenny her special marbles and teach her the things she does when she gets upset. She followed it up with a snuggle as well before "fart bombing" me and leaving the room. 

Ava came in and proceeded to keep saying to Jenny, over and over and over in her baby voice, "You're the best mommy ever. You're the best mommy ever. I love my mommy." 

I didn't ask the kids to come in and love her like that. They knew mom was hurting and wanted to let her know they loved her. The thing about kids and love is this. They're born with a whole bunch of love in their hearts. They learn how to express that love from their parents and the way the people in their world treat them. If they're surrounded by encouragement and support and love and asked to dream big...the natural love they're born with will grow and they'll have the confidence to spread that love where they see fit. If they're told they're not good enough, ignored, abused, the love they're born with will be locked away deep inside in the only place where it's safe. And when that happens, it takes an awful long time to re-program the brain to think otherwise. 

Jenny held on tight to those marbles. I asked her how she could be a bad mom if her kids willingly came up to love on her like that. Our kids learned to love from their mom and I. They learned from my parents, Papa + EE. They learned from all the amazing families we've had the pleasure of going on adventures with. Our kids don't know it yet, but they're pretty darn lucky.

Now this wasn't the first time I've seen this situation play out, and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last. Jenny's fighting a war inside herself. I have faith the more we pull through for her and show her she's ok...that every time she feels like she's messed up, we'll meet her with grace and love...that she's not letting us down...that she's not failing...that she's worth every ounce of love we pour into her...I know, without a doubt, love is what will ultimately help Jenny see the beautiful soul she is. 

I don't know how long it'll be until this situation comes to a close, but I do know this. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it. As long as Jenny holds on to those marbles, she can't possibly resist love forever. With such an innocent and beautiful love from her kids, how could she?

I share this story because I know there are moments in all our lives where we hurt...where we give in to the negativity...where we believe crap about ourselves that's just flat out not true. I don't know where you are on your journey. Maybe you're out of the tunnel and in the light, or maybe you aren't. Maybe you're halfway up the mountain, and you can see the summit but you just don't know how much longer it'll be before you're at the top. Wherever you are on your life's journey, I hope you know this...if you're struggling, if you're angry and frustrated. If you're battling depression or grieving or hurting in any way, know you're not alone. Know your life isn't perfect, and might not ever be, but that's ok. It's ok because you're still alive. You're alive and you're breathing...and sometimes that's all you got. And that's ok. You're alive and you matter. You're alive and there are people who love you so so SO much. You're alive and at some point there will be a tiny moment in your day today that's just so beautiful. Pay attention to that moment. Hold onto it. It might come in the form of a hug or a smile. It might come in the form of a text message or maybe you'll catch a beautiful sunset. Or it might come in the form of a little blue marble from a 7 year old asking you to take deep breaths and hugging you as tight as they can. Just hold on. Keep holding on...

Namasté,
Josh

Josh Solar
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A Dutch Daredevil, The Cold & What I've Learned About Being Healthy, Strong & Happy

man laying in snow in nothing but shorts

Last August, I was on a Skype call with a good friend of mine. He was telling me about this documentary he watched and wanted to know if I was crazy enough to start a 10 week training course with him. I knew I was in, but I wanted to watch the documentary first, and I was blown away. I wanted what Wim Hof teaches.

Wim Hof is known as the Iceman, he believes the cold is his greatest teacher. The most fascinating thing about Wim to me was that, not only did he believe in himself so much, but he wants to scientifically prove his methods can be learned by every single person alive. His mission is driven by a love of humanity and the desire to end mental illness for everyone. 

If you google Wim Hof's name, you'll quickly learn the man is known as the Iceman for a reason. He's climbed past the death point of Everest in nothing but shorts and spiky shoes. He's ran a marathon above the arctic circle in Finland, in nothing but shorts (yep, no shoes) in temperatures that were -20º C (-4º F). He also holds the world record for the longest time fully submerged in ice, as he stayed in for 1 hour 52 minutes. The man, when looked at like that, seems a bit crazy.

But I was intrigued. If you go to his site, you'll notice claims you'll sleep better, reduce inflammation, increase your energy, reduce stress, feel happier, burn more fat and feel more creative, among other things. I wanted that. In the middle of a rough year, the idea of feeling all those things...of feeling happy and content instead of hopeless and depressed. I wanted it. And I was ready to commit.

I told Brian that I would be his accountabilibuddy and together, we'd commit to the 10 week online training course. I was scared. You see, Wim's training is a combination of breath retentions (similar to Tummo meditation), cold showers (or other cold exposure) and stretching/yoga. The whole point of all this is to wake up our bodies, to get them running more smoothly and cleanly, and to feel more alive...fully alive. 

The way most of us live our lives now is one of comfort. We control the temperature around us, in our homes, in our cars. We control the amount of clothes we wear. We're constantly comfortable, all the time. But we weren't created to live this way. There are so many things our bodies were built to do to help us survive, and the way we live has left those abilities laying dormant.

Which is where Wim comes in. His breathing methods force your brain to tap back into those survival mechanisms. It involves deep inhales, exhaling part way, then fully inhaling again, until you get light headed. Then you breathe fully in, and fully out and see how long you can go without any air in your lungs. It's crazy how relaxed you get...the lights you see, and how relaxed you feel. I've been meditating for years and never ever felt this blissed out on a consistent basis. 

The next step is the cold showers and cold exposures. It starts slow with 30 seconds of cold at the end of your normal shower, and I'll be honest, those first 30 seconds were torture. But over time, you learn how to generate your own heat. I hardly ever turn the water to warm anymore, it's never hot, and I've been enjoying lake swims lately 1 or 2 times a week. The last time I went in, the water was about 30º F and the air temperature was a warm 14º F. You do the breathing and your skin gets cold, but internally I'm completely comfortable. Every morning I go out and stand in the cold in a low horse stance for about 10 minutes. I'll do it on the snow/ice (if there is any present), and yet, I don't feel cold, ever. I never dreamed something like this could be possible.

Then comes the strength/flexibility/yoga. I've learned better body control and built muscle. My core has never been stronger and my balance has never ever been better.

All of this to say, committing to this training has removed any signs of depression in me. I really don't think I've ever felt happier and more energized than I do right now. I'm excited for every day, and Lord knows there are some heavy challenges in my life right now. I'm more patient. I'm more content and better able to handle the stress that's all around me. I really could go on and on about the benefits I've seen and felt in my life, but I'll get to the point...

What I've learned is this. My wife and kids need me to be at my best. They do. And for the longest time, I've given my all, and never did much to fill myself back up. To be able to keep giving all this love I have inside to those in my life, I had to commit to taking better care of myself. I had to find something that recharged me...something that was challenging, and required a good deal of commitment. Wim's training became that for me. 

I want you to pause for a few moments. Think about how you feel, right now. Are you worn out? Are you tired? Do you feel like you're treading water and fighting and kicking and pressing on and you don't feel like you're getting anywhere? I know you have a good heart and your intentions are top notch. You're human. Deep down we all have good hearts. But if you aren't feeling well, you've got to ask yourself why. Then figure out a few things that will help you feel the way you want to feel, and commit to doing them. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to be the best you that you can be. 

Those are some of the lessons I've learned from a Dutch daredevil, the cold water and how it's taught me all I ever need to know about being healthy, happy and strong. What are some things you do in your life to fill you up? How do you recharge? And can you recommit to making that I priority? I'd love to hear from you.

Josh Solar
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Reflections on Surrendering to What Is

don't doubt the magic in you encouragement
As this year winds down, I find myself replaying everything that happened this year. Well, not everything, just the big stuff I can remember. This year was a challenging year for me. Filled with many failures and times when looking back I can see how I acted out of fear and the need to try and control things outside of my control.

It's only fitting when my friend asked me near the end of 2014 what my word was going to be for 2015 that I replied "surrender." I can see how life brought me so many situations where I should've just surrendered to what was, and yet I didn't.

I can't and never will be able to change the fact 2 of my kids have cystic fibrosis. Surrender.
I can't take away all the emotional and physical trauma from Jenny's childhood. Surrender.
Moving to a different city won't rid me of any of my issues, right here in KC is what's best for my family right now. Surrender.

It took me a long time to finally learn the true meaning of surrendering to what is. It took countless hours of meditation/prayer. It took exposing myself to the cold, harsh nature and pushing my body to limits I never thought possible (thanks Wim). It took opening my heart and just choosing to love unconditionally, over and over again, even though I might not have made that same choice in the past. It took surrendering to the idea that I'm not my past mistakes. I always have a choice in how I speak to myself and others, and how I choose to think about a situation.

I'm proud to say this year has taught me a lot about surrendering. I know this year was one of the hardest years of my life, but looking back now, I've learned so much about what it means to be human. It taught me so much about love, and what matters most in my life. For that, I'm grateful.

Heading into 2016, I'm choosing the word 'prosper' to be my word of the year. It's been too long since I've felt like I've actually prospered. When googling the definition of the word prosper you'll find...
  • succeed in material terms; be financially successful.
  • flourish physically; grow strong and healthy.

Honestly, I'm ready to prosper in both of those ways. I'm tired of feeling like my lot in life is to struggle and work so hard to still feel like I'm not getting anywhere other than treading water and surviving. 

To me, prosperity in the coming year will look like a few amazing adventures with my family (yay for Thailand being booked!). It will look like Hello Happiness continuing to grow into something that will support my family. It will look like more meditations and focus on intentional breaths. It will look like less distracted interactions with the world and more love letters left. I'll continue to push myself, mentally and physically, find new cold water to submerge myself in and bigger mountains to climb. 

The previous paragraph is filled with all things I have control over. If I want more adventures with my family, I can choose to book them and go, or not. I can continue to hustle to grow HHCC by reaching out to more shops about carrying our card line, or working on new products, but if I don't do the work, HHCC wont grow. I can't control much around me, but I can choose to sit down every morning and pray/meditate. I'm in control of how often I look at my phone. I'm in control of how many letters I write. I have a choice in all this...

Looking back, I see how much doubt I had about myself and my ability to surrender at the start of this year. But, contemplating where I'm at now? I see so much growth. Spiritually, mentally, physically.

Heading into the new year I have some words for you. There's nothing more true I could ever say to you than this. Don't doubt the magic in you, my friends. You really are filled with so much amazingness. My wish for you is you'll find growth, contentment and gratitude in the coming year. Life will always be perfectly imperfect. I hope you forgive any past mistakes and go forward in life knowing how loved you really are. Because you are loved. You matter. You make the world a better place. Namasté.

Josh Solar
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Some Encouragement from Some Awesome Dogs

I had just sat down to write this week's post and got distracted by a picture I saw of a friend of mine holding a basset hound puppy on facebook. My distractedness sparked some inspiration, and somehow I ended up with pictures of dogs giving us all some much needed encouragement. Enjoy!

Note: All images were taken by me during my few years of volunteering at Wayside Waifs here in Kansas City. I'm thinking of doing a weekly Encouragement Dog post over on our Instagram account. Thoughts?
your courage is contagious encouragement puppy

hold on with all you got encouragement dog

you are capable of amazing things encouragement dog

you are enough... always enough encouragement dog
trust me... you're stronger than you think encouragement dog
you will get through encouragement dog
Josh Solar
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