The Only Constant is Change. Pt. 2

Last time I wrote about change and living in the moment. Now I’ll talk about how I do this.

Life is hectic. It can be difficult to live in the moment. Living at times is a struggle with the constant bombardment of negativity and pressure. But, it can be done.

Be the eye of the storm.

I grew up in a place where hurricanes were common. One of the things I remember most was the noise, the wind roared like an angry beast threatening to devour all that stood in its path.

The day would begin overcast then on the far horizon I could see the deep gray clouds that grew darker as the weather approached. The winds would pick up in gusts tossing leaves and debris into the air like a maelstrom of confetti. Then the rains came, softly at first, but as the storm grew, the wind whipped the warm droplets into a horizontal frenzy. I’d run inside.

One memory I had as a child was listening to the fury of the winds and I watched in horror as an air-conditioning unit in the window began to move, it vibrated in the frame and rattled like a giant was trying to pull it out into the storm. An angry giant. If it weren’t for my parents boarding up the windows it would have surely been taken by the storm. My grandmother held me as we cowered.

Then, as suddenly as the storm came it was over. We were in the eye, the center of the storm. Outside the sky was blue and all around us were storm clouds.

To me, this is how life is. Chaotic and unpredictable. But, you can be the center of the storm finding balance and equilibrium while life blurs by.

I have a mantra I repeat when life gets too hectic and I’m feeling overwhelmed. It is simple and effective. It is, “Not here, not now.”

It reminds me that the thoughts that are racing through my mind are just that thoughts and may not have any real bearing on what is happening right now. It snaps me out of my virtual reality and puts me smack in the middle of reality. I suddenly realize I am sitting in my office, alone and staring at my monitor. It reminds me that whatever I am concerned about or worried about is not happening at this moment. Or that if it is, I need to take a step back and objectively analyze the situation.  Look for concrete steps of actionable items.

Am I mulling over what is going to happen? Am I frozen by what has happened? But neither is right now, right this moment. It forces me to think and ask, “What can I do right now?”

Living in the moment is about breaking the habit of, borrowing trouble from the future. Or dwelling on what is now the past.

Now there is a distinct difference between thinking of and worrying about future events and taking a nonemotional look at possible events and taking steps to mitigate the damage or result. Instead of running in circles about a possible outcome you say to yourself, “if x happens I will do this.” This is the first step in taking control. Which after all, is what has you in such a tizzy anyway. The loss of control.

No one relishes the feeling that their life is out of control.

To take a nonemotional look at something requires getting out of our own drama. Imagine if this were happening to a coworker and not yourself. How would you help them if they asked? What advice would you give them? What can they do at this moment with what abilities and resources they have at hand?

The same applies to past events. You can’t change the past but you can plan for your future, you can take the lesson learned and take physical steps to deal with it.

There is a French saying that is not too common but I like it because it sums up much of what has happened in my past. It is, “L’esprit de l’escalier” or stairwell wit. Basically, it is when you come up with the perfect comeback but the moment has passed and the only one to hear is the empty stairwell.

To sum up, what have we learned?

That to live in the moment we need to change our bad habit of borrowing trouble from the future and to worry about fixing the past.

We now have the mantra of, “not here, not now.” Our magic spell to focus our attention to where it can actually do some good about what is on our mind. We learned to take a nonemotional look at a situation and take inventory of what we can actually do vs what we want to do.

Say Goodbye to Internet Privacy

Years ago in another life, I made my living as a network consultant and administrator. As a professional, I can tell you that security is mostly an illusion and privacy is nonexistent. As an admin, I had complete access to anything electronic from their phones to their laptops and messenger messages. That was 15 years ago and it has only gotten easier. Now there is software that anyone can download and pry into another’s phone and computer. Hacking has almost become a national pastime.

But, let me take a step back. I need to define what security and privacy are on the internet. For the sake of simplicity, security is the ability to keep data safe such as encrypting passwords, credit card information, your home address, privacy is the ability to keep what you are viewing, reading, and doing secure.

The approach to having a secure and private network has always been a plan of having multiple layers of protection.

Just how you lock your doors at night and turn on the alarm, layers. One might be good enough to get the thief checking for an unlocked door but not a determined one willing to break a window to get in.

Now imagine that thief having absolute privacy to do what he wanted to get into your home, he can never get caught, he has all the time in the world to get inside and the government has given him the greenlight.

This is what congress has done by opening your browsing to big business, the thief has been given the keys to your home.

How would you like if some random employee from your internet provider come to your home and pick through your personal papers, taking copies of your medical records, your insurance papers, bank statements and any other personal information they want. Because this is what this new legislation gives them access to. It is not hard to see where this is going.

Already you, can run a credit report and background check on anyone you know. How long before your medical records are available as well? All you need is a name and you can guess the rest.

The best way to protect ourselves is through the use of a VPN. I know some will say, “I don’t care, I’ve nothing to hide.” To those, I can only ask when will you draw the line at Corporatocracy‘s continued intrusion into your private life? Would it be okay for a stranger to walk into your house and paw through your personal papers? This is in fact what they have just been given access to. This means anything you google, view, buy, or browse will be sold to companies so they can control what you see and what they send you. You want to see your medical records online? Talk to your doctor? Well, now business has access to that as well. Nothing you do online will be private.

They can sell this information to other companies, your employer, your enemies and anyone who knows how and where to buy it. If that does not scare you then you are truly lost and deserve the world you are helping to create through your complacency and you have taken citizenship in the Idiocracy.

What can we do about it? We can make it harder for them. Interestingly enough, it’s a simple as taking a few precautions. Just as you would going to your car in an empty parking lot you look around and observe your surrounding. Small habits that have big payoffs.

Most websites start HTTP this is the normal unsecured address. Some browsers like Chrome automatically change this to HTTPS the “S” means secure. This means your connection to the website is encrypted or scrambled so that anyone trying to peek will get a garbage. But this is security, not privacy. Chrome is one of the most secure browsers but it is terrible in privacy as they already know everything you do.

The easiest way is to use a VPN or Virtual Private Network, these have been around for years. They allow a secure and virtual network between you and the sites you access. It’s like having your own private Internet that no one else can snoop. Nothing is 100 % secure and private but this is pretty close and it would take an effort to penetrate.

Some VPNs are free like Startpage.com, though not a true VPN it is a private search engine, ( an alternative to google) that does not track your browsing.

Hide.me, is a free proxy with a paid VPN service. A proxy is a form of VPN where you ask the proxy for something and it asks for you so that the site queried will not know who asked the question. Sort of the “asking for a friend” version of internet browsing.

Don’t go to sketchy websites. This seems like a no-brainer but so many times I’ve heard, “I didn’t do anything. I only clicked a link” well that link then installed a program that infected the network.

Use a better browser, Chrome is secure but not private. The browser Opera has been high on the list of most private browsers. But it lacks some functionality and some websites/features will not work under a private browser. One more point Opera has a new free VPN service.

Or you can go more extreme as I do. I’ve rooted my phone and installed an alternative ROM. This has several advantages, it gets rid of the bloatware that comes with phones including any corporate installed spyware, allows you to install and uninstall any program you don’t want/like/use. The cons are it takes a little skill to do this, it voids your warranty and there is very little support if something goes wrong. Not for the faint of heart, but like life, some of the best things are just that way.

Another thing that I find from the average user is that these things are complicated. You have to dig into the guts of the browser settings to get the most privacy out of them. But as a good start using a secure browser like Opera or Incognito mode in Chrome make it better than leaving your front door wide open.

One thing on paid VPN service, most cost about $70 a year or less, before you balk at the price consider how much you pay for your daily latte addiction and add that up for the month.

Lastly, I’ve included some links to articles that I found useful and to deeper discussions on the topics I’ve touched. If you’d like to see a how-to on a topic or an analysis of a topic, leave your comments below.

Browser comparisons, Chrome vs Opera vs others

Which Opera version for you?

Setup a VPN in 10 minutes with Opera

Ten best free VPNs

Best Paid VPNs

 

Space, the final frontier…

When on a clear night I look out at the stars I am reminded that there is more to life than looking down.

It reminds me of the transitory nature of our problems, and existence. That all we experience is so insignificant when set against the nature and vastness of the universe. It reminds me to embrace the good moments and allow the bad ones to pass for I know all things have an end and that by living in the moment I am grounded in my experience and not troubled by an uncertain future that is beyond control.

Whoa! Slow down!

“If the world is turning too fast for you, then careful analysis will tell you that there are a limited number of things you can do about it.” – Thomas Perry, Death Benefits

Ever notice everyone is busy? Always busy, but this busy is never really defined. I don’t think people could define it if you stopped them and asked. “I’m busy,” has become a catch-all phrase we use to avoid doing something else in our constantly moving and mobile world.

But what is all this motion getting us? Why are we all rushing towards an early grave? Over the years I’ve purposely slowed down and forced myself to take a breath. To ask the question, what is going on right here right now. Often the thoughts floating around in my mind have little to do with the current reality.

The hardest advice to take, I’ve come to realize, is my own.

The Only Constant is Change. Pt. 1

Change and uncertainty.

Two things that make many uncomfortable and some frightened. All things change, that is the way of life. You can’t fight it. The more you try the more miserable you’ll be when change happens. Especially sudden change.

Instead embrace that change will come. Accept it and then enjoy the present. Live in the moment with those you care for and things you care about.

Living in the moment. What does that mean? Aren’t we always living in the moment?

Living in the moment refers to where our thoughts dwell. It refers to a willful act to focus our attention to the tasks at hand.  My previous posts spoke about metacognition. The ability to see our thoughts as they play out. Living in the moment requires us to ask the questions, “Is this right here? Right now?”

These are very powerful questions that ground us in the reality of the moment. They focus us. They snap us out of our musings.

I’m not saying ignore the future or the past. I am saying don’t dwell on them so much that life passes you by while your mind is elsewhere.

More in Part 2.

Being Outside My Brain

Metacognition is a fancy word that means being aware of and able to understand your own thought process.

I’ve had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD tendencies for as long as I can remember and through the years I’ve learned to control it. For me the key to stopping it is to realize that it was happening and this is where metacognition comes into play.

The worse part is the counting. The endless counting over and over, 1234, 1234, 1234. The mind gets stuck in rut and counting becomes like a mantra, though for what, I don’t know.

The metacognition steps in and I hear myself say, “Stop it!” The counting stops, though the urge to continue takes a few moments to fade back into the nothingness from which it came.

The carrot or the Stick?

Parenting Styles

My son at the time was 4-5 years old and I took him to the beach. This was a time when those wrist leashes were fashionable to keep them from committing suicide by running out into traffic.
My son hated his. But his mother did not tell me this. So we get there. I put the leash on him after taking him out of the chair and dip back into the car to grab the beach toys.
Out of the corner of my eye I see him lay down on the hot asphalt. “Hmm, this is what he does to his mother,” I thought, knowing his mother at this point would scream at him to get up.
I calmly retrieved the items from the car and turned towards the beach looking out. Never once looking down at him.
A minute later I felt his little hand in mine. I turned and asked, “Hot down there isn’t it?” He nodded. He never tried that crap again with dad.