Some Reddit Gold (Motivational, Life Advice)

What follows is something I came across on Reddit. Per one of the comments, I am taking the liberty to republish it here. It will only take you a few minutes to read and I’m positive everyone can glean something of value from it. Of particular interest to me are the ideas about Dopamine and it’s role in motivation, and how we can influence it and positively manage it. Also, Flow Activities. And lastly, what the author write about getting on a healthy sleep schedule is correct: wake and eat early, stay up, repeat. So much good stuff here. Without further ado, enjoy:

[METHOD] How I went from rock bottom to disciplined in 6 months.

Hi, I wish to share my journey of getting disciplined. I hope you will take something away from this :). I would like to mention that I’m not a native English speaker, so forgive me for any grammar and/or spelling mistakes.

TLDR; Build positive habits on a foundation of willpower, not motivation.

Start reading non-fiction and apply it in your life. Work on your physiology, it should be the foundation for productivity and discipline.

Lessen the amount of superstimuli in your life to get more dopamine (motivation).

Flow activities should be the goal in life, not mind numbing pleasure.

Start a bullet journal where you color code all activities you do each day positive or negative.

It all started when I realized I had hit rock bottom. I was getting up at 3pm everyday. Only ate junkfood, lay in bed watching YouTube and smoking a lot of weed. My room was always a complete mess. I completely disregarded my study while I was living of a study loan. Every night I would hang out with a friend who would do the same and we’d smoke weed and watch screens until about 5 am. It really was rock bottom. This went on for a long time until I saw I had to change my life.

HABIT BUILDING

I read a book called The Slight Edge. The idea of the book was that with consistent, incremental improvement, anyone could reach anything. It also debunked the idea of a ‘quantum leap’, which at first I believed in. I liked the idea and started implementing it to form positive habits in my life. I started with nofap, meditation, reading, cleaning and some more. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out. So some advice on habit building I have accumulated is this:

DON’T TRUST MOTIVATION. Motivation is good if it’s there but it shouldn’t be the foundation of the habits you create. Why? because motivation isn’t always there, and when it’s gone you also lose the habits that you build on top of it. I experienced this a lot of times. I would have a streak of 100+ days meditation, miss 3 days and completely give up until I had the motivation again to start over.

So how can I build habits then? Do it based on willpower. The big difference is not to say to yourself “I’m gonna read 20 pages every day because I’m so motivated to gain knowledge.” But that you say “I’m going force myself to start reading everyday because I will have enough willpower to always do that.”

The key is that if you make the requirement so small that you can always do it, you will never fail. So doing for example 1 pushup everyday. You will never fail that requirement. But if you have very little motivation one day and think about doing 20 pushups, it just seems intimidating and you don’t do it.

Some people might say “only starting to read or doing 1 push up will never get me anywhere.” And I agree, but the thing is that you can do more. And you will usually do more. Once you forced yourself, with willpower, to get into push up position and do 1 push up, you’ll probably think “I can do one more, and one more” and so on. Same for reading, once you’ve forced yourself to sit in a chair with a book and started reading, you wont stop after just 1 word. You will do a lot more than the initial requirement more times then not. It will also give you a sense of “I did this”. Especially if your requirement is, say, 1 push up, and you do 10. You will have done 9 extra. As opposed to when you require yourself to do 20 and do 10. You will have done 10 too little.

Try it right now, force yourself on the ground to do one push up. I’m sure you have the willpower to do that.

The key is to make the requirement so small you will never fail it. Build the habit on a foundation of willpower, if motivation comes along, that’s great.

READING

The one habit that has done the most for my life is to read non-fiction. I bought an e-reader and started to read daily. I recommend buying an e-reader a lot. Here are some of the benefits:

– Very portable, whenever I’m in public transport I pull it out and read some pages.

– Buying books is instant and you can read anything you’d like

– If you have little money there are a lot of places where you can download ebooks for free

– It has a backlight, so you can read in your bed, lying on your side, in the dark. Most come with blue light filters as well.

Some of the benefits of reading non-fiction

– You can learn directly from great people

– There are books on anything that you find interesting (for me it’s psychology)

– There are a lot of self-help books on the market that will give you advice that you can practically apply in your life.

I’m sure there are a lot more, but for the sake of not writing a book as a post this will do.

I think the most important thing as a prerequisite for discipline is good physiology. If you aren’t feeling good it’s hard to do things that would count as disciplined behavior. So that’s why I would recommend reading some books about physiology.

Books that have had a profound impact on my life are; Mini habits, Meet Your Happy Chemicals, The HeartMath Solution, The Willpower Instinct, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Awareness Through Movement.

If your read all these books you will learn; how to create healthy habits in your life without making it hard; how your brain chemicals work; how to instantly lower stress and deal with negative thought and emotion, how willpower works, why it matters and how to get more of it; how orgasm induces neurochemical brain changes for 2 weeks and how it’s evolutionary designed to break romantic relationships; what a flow experience is, and why it should be the goal for all activities in life to turn into one; that everyone stops progressing in the most basic things like breathing, posture etc. because only the minimal in life is needed to get on, it also provides lessons on how to improve these parts of life.

Gaining knowledge in this field will give you the ability to make the changes in your life that will benefit your overall feeling. Feeling good overall, in your body and mind, is required for doing productive things.

DOPAMINE

I’m a psychology student so when I got into self help I was naturally interested in the brain’s place in self improvement.

Dopamine is the key player here. Most people think dopamine is responsible for ‘pleasure’. This is a big misunderstanding. Dopamine is actually responsible for ‘wanting’ and motivation.

When the dopamine part of the brain was first discovered, it was discovered in rats. The researchers hooked up a lever to the rats’ dopamine circuit to shock the dopamine circuit (mimicking dopamine release) whenever the rats would pull the lever. The rats soon ignored anything else and only pulled the lever until they died of starvation and fatigue. Next the researchers (this one is a bit cruel) would have 2 levers on the opposite sides of a cage that would produce a ‘dopamine hit’ if pressed after the other. To make it interesting they put an electrically charged grid in between that would give the rats a painful shock if they walked over it. So now the rats would have to cross the grid every time they wanted another ‘dopamine hit’. Shockingly (lol) the rats would run across it until they burned of their legs and couldn’t walk anymore. The researchers concluded from these experiments that this dopamine circuit was responsible for creating pleasure. Nowadays this is proved to be wrong and the actual function of the dopamine circuit is believed to be wanting and motivation.

Most things people like to do give a lot of dopamine (much more than anything would have given in nature). Things like watching TV (or netflix), internet, drugs, processed foods, porn, gambling and videogames. Things that give us a lot of dopamine tend to be addicting. No wonder I was only smoking, watching screens and lying in bed when I hit rock bottom.

Now, why should you care? The reason is very simple. Exposure to high dopamine for longer periods of time REDUCES DOPAMINE RECEPTORS. Lower dopamine receptors give you lower motivation, lower concentration and less mental sharpness. With there being a lot of supernaturally high dopamine giving activities and substances available to us we should all be aware in what amount we should consume them. This is the reason why there are more college and university dropouts more than ever before. Why so many people are unhappy at work. And why there are more cases of depression than ever before (depression is linked to lower dopamine).

Big companies know about this and use it to sell us as much as possible and keep them on their platforms for longer. They put the exact amount of sugar in all foods so that we like it the most, they design their platforms so you stay on them a lot (Facebook and Instagram), they implement gambling into games so that we play them more (Fortnite).

So what to take away from all this? Lessen the amount of activities you do each day that give you a lot of dopamine and don’t add anything to your life. This will give you a natural amount of dopamine receptors again and will make it a lot easier to stay concentrated while reading or learning an instrument for example.

FLOW ACTIVITIES

1 book that has made a profound impact on my life is the book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The idea of the book is that there are certain activities that for which your brain needs 100% of it’s power to be focused on the activity. This is when you reach a ‘Flow state’. In this state you lose the idea of the self, you lose track of time and are only focused on the task at hand. For example when you drive somewhere and you get there and don’t remember how you got there.

Flow occurs when your skill matches the challenge of the activity. When your skill is too high, you will be bored, when the challenge is too high you will be anxious.

The key idea from this book, for me, was the difference between pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure activities are ones that give the high amount of dopamine. Whereas enjoyable activities also give dopamine, but also make you better at the task and will often produce a state of Flow. Enjoyment produces growth, pleasure does not.

I think that any activity in life that is not a pure pleasure activity can be made into a flow activity. It’s one of my goals in life to fill my day with enjoyable activities. It made me realize I wanted to fill my day with making music and reading, not with smoking and watching TV.

JOURNALING

One of the best habits I have build is journaling. More specifically bullet journaling. I’m not sure if this is the official way to do it but this is what I do and what works for me.

People pay coaches a lot of money to do something they can do themselves as well; give feedback. All a coach does is tell you what you’ve done, and where you can improve. This is something you can do yourself easily by bullet journaling.

My method: I have a simple notebook where I use the left and right page for 1 day. In the morning I write down some things I want to do that day on the left page. If there are things I wanted to do yesterday I write them down for today. I also write a bit about how I feel. Recently I’ve been doing some affirmations as well on that page. You can skip this entire left page, I personally like it, but I can understand how it’s a bit much for some people. You could also experiment with it and change it up how you like it.

The real magic (and the reason I made the coach analogy) is on the right page. Here is where I write down every influential activity I do. I won’t write down things like ‘have breakfast’ or ‘short chat with roommate’. I write down everything that has a positive or a negative meaning (some things are neutral like doing groceries). Then at the end of the day I will use a marker to color code every activity either green (positive) or red (negative). So for example:

(green) get up at 6am

(green) take a cold shower

(green) meditate

(red) smoke a joint

(red) waste an hour on Netflix

(green) go to school

(red) hangout with X toxic friend and drink beer

I hope you see what I meant with the coach analogy now. You will get a lot of feedback on what you do each day. When I first started doing this I was shocked by how much red activities I had and made it a mission to get more green activities in there. It was slow progress but steadily it got better.

If you don’t like the left part of the journaling (which is how most people recommend it), I would advice you to try the right page. If you’re gonna do one, it should be the right page. See it as a free life coach.

SLEEP SCHEDULE

When I was at rock bottom my schedule was the furthest away from perfect that it could possibly be. One of the first things I changed that lasted was my sleeping schedule. I was done waking when it’s almost dark already and still being tired. Also I noticed that everything I did in the late evening wasn’t productive (or even counterproductive) like watching screens and doing drugs

There are good reasons to wake up early (5-6-7 AM). The best sleep you can get is the sleep between 10 and 12. If you’re still awake at 00:00 you will produce cortisol and adrenaline to keep you awake. This isn’t healthy. Good sleep improves cognitive function, vitality and motivation by a lot. There are many more benefits to a good sleeping schedule, and I think it’s well known that it’s a lot better. However most people think it’s hard to change their schedule.

It’s not. This is how you do it;

– Set your alarm at your goal wake up time (EG 6 am)

– When it goes, get out of bed, immediately eat breakfast

– Don’t sleep the rest of the day

– Make sure you stop all screens by 9:30 and are in bed before 10:00

– Set the alarm again, you will most likely wake up before it goes.

It’s as easy as this, now all you have to do is to stick with it. Start enjoying the vast amount if time you have available in the morning.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I anticipated. I really appreciate you reading it all the way through. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment or shoot me a message. I hope some of this has been helpful and I hope you will find success and happiness in life! Peace!

 

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Thirty-One and Change: Reflections on Experience 

This is my third and final attempt to write this entry. The previous two night’s efforts yielded a dozen or so paragraphs but nothing palpable, from the heart.

Unfortunately, I am tired and slightly stoned atm; however, this might actually work in my favor, given that it ensures I will be (Relatively) brief. And I recognize I am not generally so; although, this is largely because my prose is more the result of a process than a purpose – but I digress. Back to the matter at hand.

Twice I have worn myself out attempting to write this entry; and it would seem simple: I want to write about some of the things I have come to realize this year; however, it is not simple: it is complex.

To share my realizations – what amounts to my bedrock values and priorities at thirty-one – is to draw from what I have learned, often by living in a way that is entirely contradictory to what I am now prescribing for myself; however, this is growth – meaning: I am not losing any part of myself; in my heart, I am still the boy I was at eleven; only, now, I am a happy, peaceful, and constructive adult, which is nothing to scoff at – as any adult learns.

That said, here are the things that are sticking for me at thirty-one:

Proportion > Balance

Balance is frequently espoused as part of a happy, healthy life, which makes sense given that extremes and excesses are destructive forces for many, if not all who fail to practice moderation in their lifestyles. Unfortunately, however, my idea of balance never moderated my behavior; my idea of balance was: “Everything in moderation, including moderation itself.” Not exactly a wise prescription for living; although, most certainly a forgiving one. Only, I don’t want to stem the tide of cognitive dissonance with beliefs that directly negate my personal responsibility. As an adult, it is my responsibility to make sure that everything I do is authentically attuned to what may be called my “higher-self”, which is to say: the me that I aspire to be – the me I am committed to being. So, instead of trying to live a prescription for a balanced life, today I am more concerned with living proportionately to my needs, based on what works for me.

Balance may work for others; although, I do not pretend to know what it best for another; my principal concern is only what it best for me, based on the individualized needs of my soul. And I need proportion.

This [proportion] applies to many aspects of my life; I simply require the things that work for me in direct proportion to the degree in which they serve me. For some things, this means total abstinence, for others, it’s open season.

In short, attempting to practice balance is not a specific enough prescription for me, whereas viewing things from the perspective of proportion allows me to consciously choose only that which is suited for me. 

Cannibis, Entheogens > Alcohol

I used to think alcohol helped me, somehow made me better, more able to be myself. Talk about shit thinking; I couldn’t have been more wrong: alcohol is antithetical to who I am, to what I value – and most certainly is only a detriment to my higher-self and soul. Put simply, it doesn’t serve me one single iota. Cannibis however, and certain entheogens (Ritually used in a healthy, safe environment), have helped me. In-fact, I cleanse the doors of perception not infrequently; however, it should be said here, that this is something that works for me – again, proportion.

For those curious to learn more about psychadellics, I recommend following MAPS

Introversion > Misanthropy 

I once proudly proclaimed myself a misanthrope (Nine months ago, lol). Today, largely thanks to Sociometer Theory and Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Both of which have helped me understand man’s function as a social animal.), I actually care what other people think (As, I never before did), and my self-esteem is a million miles better for it. In short, humans need human love, acceptance, and even approval.

Experience > Wisdom 

It might be said that wisdom without experience is only advice.

It is only when we have the requisite experience and learning that we can understand the depth of even the most banal cliches.

I can’t think of how many times the most oft-uttered (And heretofore seemingly meaningless) adages, have suddenly made perfect sense to me in light of personal experience. Things like, “Be careful what you wish for” now strike me as profound and invaluable, whereas before they meant little if anything.

In short, wisdom is cheap, experience is priceless. 

On the same note, it’s amazing reading something I have read for years, and being struck in the heart by passages that before went in one ear and out the other (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations comes to mind).

As the Tao says:

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Mature Responsibilities > Base Animal Drives

I think what separates humans from animals isn’t the lack of base, animalistic drives, but, rather, our ability to transcend and rise above them.

For much of my life I have followed the dictates of my base impulses, and it has come at the expense of my resposibilities.

I am reminded of the saying, “The mind is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”

Today, I am happy to be master of the castle, lord of the manor. I no longer feel conscripted by my animalistic desires to abandon my responsibilities. Instead, I am focusing on my higher animal desires, which, unlike the lower, do not rob me of my dignity and gravitas.

Dignity > Pride

I spent much of my twenties defending my pride and abandoning my dignity. It hurts just to think about. Thankfully, however, life has humbled me. Where I once defended my pride at all costs, today I defend my dignity, which is a much more honorable source of pride than my ego ever was.

In a word, dignity, like class, is how you treat people and how you respond to the way others treat you: it is saving the world from yourself; it is the very basis of social and personal morality. 

Habits > Impulse, Whim, Folly

As mentioned, I am no stranger to my base animal desires; however, what’s more, I also know what it is to live subject to every passing whim, impulse, and folly.

I used to think this was freedom: living according to my nature  – regardless what presented itself to me as pleasing – consequences be damned.

How foolish and young I was; this was not freedom, it was ignorance. To live according to impulse is to lay victim to habits, which require self-discipline and control – the very enemies of the puer.

Today, I love the ritual of habits. As I lay here writing this, Sarah reads beside me, the dogs lay about, a fire burns in the hearth, and “Awaken, My Love!” plays cooly, melodically, in the background – a typical evening for us.

In short, I am no longer plagued by restlessness and I love the peace and security my habits bring me – Friday wake and bake included. Whatever fun I had to get here was worth it (Mostly), but I thank my lucky stars my twenties are over, and with them the impulse, whim, and folly that for so long kept me from being able to live a calm, stable life, which is by no means to say an unexciting one. 

Security > Freedom 

When most first-world white people think of freedom, they tend to envision something like the 4-Hour Workweek or perhaps being able to travel or live remotely, as many Facebook ads promise. Only, that’s not freedom (Sounds more like retirement to me); my concept of freedom looks very much like the life I am now taking up: consulting from home and daily writing fiction. Fuck getting rich if I am not writing. That is not my dream of freedom; my freedom today comes from the security I maintain, which affords me the ability to do what I love: pursue my career as a major writer.

In short, I would have no freedom without the security afforded me by the very things I once thought diametrically opposed to freedom: hard work and discipline. 

Freedom is following your dreams. Without security, this is not possible. 

For my writers out there:

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.”

– E.B White

Actions > Dreams 

Following the spirit of the above, I am today interested in actions over dreams.

In a word, action is what brings dreams to life; without action dreams are only fantasies. And life is too short to spend fantasizing. Besides, real life beats masturbating any day. 

Temporality > Mortality 

I have long felt myself a Stoic – fuck, I had to be, lol *laughs at life’s major tragedies. 

Part of what has allowed me to laugh at my misfortunes (And a big part of my philosophy) was the concept of my mortality – memento mori.

Unfortunately, however, while focusing and meditating on death put things in perspective for me, it also gave me a devil may care attitude, as if saying to myself: “Don’t worry, you’re totally GOING TO DIE,” hence, why stress over this or that. In a sense it gave me the peace of a nihilist. And we all know nihilists DGAF.

Only, I want to give a fuck. After all, I can use any number of philosophies and maxims to strip myself of personal responsibility, but the fact remains: I am responsible for myself while I am here – temporarily. So, while I am here, let me live well (In accordance with reason and nature), and let me follow my dreams.

For not only will I one day die, but I will also one day be old and the ships will have sailed. 

Let me remember that I am here temporarily; let me make hay while the sun shines. 

Health > Pleasure 

Health isn’t everything, it is the only thing. Without health we have nothing; in-fact, health is my top priority in life – as it should be.

Honesty > Fear

I’m closing with this becuase without honesty – personal honesty – I would have arrived at none of these understandings.

Whatever fears, whatever vanities and insecurities might prevent me from examining my life, all are mere trivialities when compared to the benefits of living life honestly, with both feet planted on the ground.

Without personal honesty we are forever condemned to our prejudices and illusions.

In order to grow, we have to confront our fears, which simply requires being honest with ourselves. That is true bravery.

Postscript

I pride myself on living with a light-heart, and this entry was by no means heavy-hearted; however, I have definitely written many things here that were much more fun, joyous even; although, this was certainly not one of them. 

This was a serious, mature declaration of truths, many of which I had failed to consider or realize up until this point. That said, in my effort to attain proportion in my endeavors, I most certainly seek lightness, laughter, but those things require that I adhere to the above principles – for without them, I would be rudderless. 

– LB

The Suck: Choice is Yours

Melancholy days. I still have them; usually they happen when life doesn’t live up to my expectations. 

There is, of course, the adage that, happiness is reality minus expectations. It follows then, that we are, for the most part, responsible for our own happiness or sadness; however, I find value in all emotional states: the sour is a valuable part of life. 

Some days pain is going to visit you, and you will look in the mirror and know that you are better than this. Now, whatever this is, it’s what your life happens to be at the present moment.

Does that mean there is no changing it? No. You can change it, but you’re going to need to be honest with yourself about what needs to be changed and what is going to be required of you. 

What do you want? Remind yourself. Never forget; even if those expectations cast a thunderstorm above life as it stands today. You musn’t scale down your expectations because they aren’t met. That’s resignation. 

I think the path to mediocrity is an easy one: it’s the path most are on. They resign themselves to life as it is. I, on the other hand, would rather have days like this, knowing that they are reminders of what I want, what I deserve, and what I am capable of creating. 

As John Mayer sings on The Heart of Life, “Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood”. So too is sadness, melancholy, and pain. These things are the feedback system within us, designed to let us know that shit sucks. 

Because sometimes – contrary to what your Facebook feed might lead you to believe – life can suck – and that’s okay, not just normal, but healthy. For without days like this, how are we ever to grow, to evolve. We need days like this. In fact, I would argue that without days like this, we aren’t living full and honest lives. 

Sure, I have a lot to be grateful for. I am neither disputing nor forgetting that. Fact is, anyone who has been through what I have gone through does not forget to count their blessings. I am a fortunate fellow. I’ve got youth, health, passion, intellect, and a wellspring of potential, which I am fully aware of. It’s just X, Y, and Z – the flies in the ointment – that really upset me. 

So I have two choices: I can let the suck cripple me, essentially relegating me to my bed as the suck tends to do – or, I can make a plan to change the suck.

Life is a game of potentials but it is won by wills. You cannot allow the suck to break your will or to weaken your resolve. It has to fuel it, it has to embolden your cause, serving to act as nature’s reminder that life can be more than this. So put pen to paper as I am today. Make a plan to change X, Y, and Z. It’s either that or you accept it. The choice is all yours but the suck is here regardless. It’s what you do with it, what meaning you allow it, and how it changes you. So use it. Let it push you forward. Let it spur you to change what you can, which is either the cause of the suck, your beliefs about the suck, or how the suck makes you feel. Chances are, however, that the latter element is futile: it sucks. There is no changing that. That’s what the suck is. But it’s not all it is. The suck presents an invaluable opportunity to change your circumstances, to refuse to accept what is, and to grow and evolve. 

As Henry Ford said, “Most people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. 

That’s kind of what the suck is like. But, if we can look past it and we can see things honestly for what they are, we might just be looking at the chance we have been waiting for, which we ought to be grateful fortune has bestowed upon us. 

So no, I won’t embrace the suck – but I will welcome it as an opportunity, seeing pain as a messenger, and I will turn adversity to my advantage. This is how the hero plays the game. As I always say, you are either the hero of your story or the victim. Choice is yours. 

Journal: Life is Sweet

I’m writing tonight because it’s what I do.

Also, I have a duty to myself, I have a duty to write – even when I am happy – in fact, I wouldn’t even mind making a habit of it.

And frankly: I am happy.

And sure, life goes on: that Thai place wasn’t that great tonight, and it wasn’t cool when I bumped into that girl at Starbucks after, while with the girl I am now seeing (Not to mention the girl who works there – ahem,… but that is another story).

And no, I am no player. Not in my nature.

But it is nice to no longer sit at home thinking:

Oneday, I will be able to give a girl the life I want for myself

I shudder just thinking of how blind [ignorant] I was.

Thankfully, I eventually said fuck that noise and I stopped being a bitch.

Seriously.

I wish I had some profound answer, but, eventually, you just gotta decide to quit being lame, and own your life.

And sure, the profound helps – but ultimately, it is up to you to make your life awesome.

And if you think it’s more complex than that, then please: go have a look at all the happy, successful, dumb mo’fuckers stunting on yo ass.

Today, there is more salt in a single liter of San Pellegrino than there is in all my philosophy.

Anyone following the evolution of myself and my writing this year can see that the clouds have lifted.

For the first time in far too long: I am in a great place. And – let me tell you – it has been a long time coming; for I see now that somewhere along the way, the clouds had become the sky and the mood had faded into a disposition.

Thankfully, there are three things capable of altering a person’s disposition – three things that let us see the clouds long after we have ceased taking notice of them.

These alchemical balms or, rather, solvents of consciousness are:
Love, G-d, and Psychedelics.

And the irony is that they are, in effect, all the same: for they all leave you with a deeper sense of gratitude, a greater sense of wonder, and a clearer understanding of life.

These are the very things that wash the salt away from the human soul.

Without the three craziest things known to man, I would have lost my mind a long time ago.

And – please – do not romanticize them; Love, G-d, and Psychedelics are no substitute for inward gazing – instead, think of them as alternative lenses through which, in moments of pure experience, stripped of your personality, you may see life for what it is rather than what you have unconsciously accepted it to be.

Perception is a filter – and once you have learned how to examine the filter, you will never again be blinded by it.

Now: I choose my perspective. I recognize today that I simply did not believe myself deserving of much these past five years – and, even now, I have to remind myself that I, indeed, am not only deserving but that I deserve far greater things than I have ever imagined for myself.

Let them be salty.


Dem Apples

I inspire –
I acquire what I desire –
And my girl gets what she requires –
Cause all she wants is we to perspire

So I feel healthy, like kind buds
She and I: we good buds

She a kind girl and my kinda girl
She say, I got that good D
I give her a vitamin, she swallow me

When she want takeout: I eat box
White boy swag: I beat box
Three times a day, no role play
And her body smooth like a rich girl
Only she ain’t no starbucks bitch girl

Got class, like 18 units
At the dining hall, we ball till we fall
Fuck me sober, cause I’m always over
Never under – but I get top
She young and sexy: halter tops

And I hope we never stop

And she says: “No one can tell us no.”
And she know, I love dat cookie doh

Care of The Soul: A Recipe

I’ve been blessed, but this is gifted: I gave it to myself.

It’s a simple recipe, centuries old – timeless really:

I am on a blanket, under the stars, with a candlelit lantern, and a cup of homemade chai tea.

Mexican Blanket: $20.00
Chai Tea: $0.35
Stanley insulated thermos: $30.00
Lantern & candle: $4.50 (flea mkt)

Inner Peace: Priceless.

This is what life is about. Inner peace.

Inner peace is not something you are blessed with (I tried that recipe the first thirty years of my life). No, inner peace is a gift, it’s something you give yourself. And you must; it’s your G-d given right to be happy.

Do you think hapiness something other than inner peace? Pity you if you do, for I’ve already tried that recipe too.

On this blanket, writing this, the breeze playing with my face; I could do this everynight, and I practically do.

I’m grateful to Thomas Moore for connecting a lot of Jungian dots for me. His book, Care of The Soul, has been a great asset in my life. Prior, I had made progress towards consciously caring for my soul, but after his book found me, caring for my soul became my paramount duty. A duty that has given me deep and lasting fulfillment. As a matter of chance, I also happened to read Walden at the same time, which only added to my understanding of Moore’s work. Thoreau certainly cared for his soul with the dedication of a true master.

I am far from Walden Pond, but my view shares a watery reflection. And here, following Thoreau, I experience the simple beauty of life. (Although he might pass on the extravagance of my stevia sweeted tea).

This is how life is meant to be lived: simply and naturally. It is insane we confine ourselves within doors so resolutely. Those crazy misanthropes: the Eustace Conways, the Christopher McCandlesses; the Thoreaus, they are the normal ones. It’s the rest of the world, in their walled in castles; they are the very form of crazy, neurotic, anti-social type that they deem an outcast.

The outcast is merely a shadow figure, someone to pile the the scorn of their buried envy on. Don’t believe me? Buy a blanket, brew some tea, go drink it out of doors on a starry night and tell me otherwise. This is living.

Only, we’ve been sold a house with a living-room full of nice furniture so we can deposit ourselves repeatedly to stare into an electronic box until we die.

The American dream: sitting in your castle watching your box. I’m laughing but, I tell you, this stuff is stranger than fiction.

Yes, I am happy. And sure, I live in a box too. But mine is near the sea, my backyard the very form of nature and the place I deposit myself to stare out and look at the real world. Here I peacefully contemplate life, occassionally looking down into the box phone, I now type this on.

What amazes me, however, is that I’m the only one out here doing this. This despite the fact that behind me, thousands of residents in tall condominium buildings live, none ever opting for an evening spent in fresh air.

Not to say they never get out, but for me, I pretty much have to. It’s my black rock.

In the distance, the bleating siren of an ambulance reminds me that I’ll be living in LA again soon, apart from nature I enjoy at present.

It’s this bittersweet note that prompts me to walk home. On the way I see my neighbors having drinks with their friends in a house so brightly lit that I am disturbed by it’s synthetic luster.

Back in my castle, I lie in bed, the glow of my salt lamp maintaining some semblance of the organic, which I value so deeply.

Returning to my thoughts on LA, I am coming to see that I will need to find a place with either a rooftop terrace or a yard, for sitting on a blanket in LA, outdoors at ground level, is not reccomended. I love the city of angels for many reasons – it’s natural wonders aren’t among them. Sure there is Runyon and Santa Monica’s beaches, but neither offer me the sanctuary I have now; however, I do intend to recreate this sanctum using the recipe above. After all, this blanket is going to last for a long, long time.

This Unlived Life

You were not my final sunset
I’ve yet to have my best kiss
I’ll again be loved and loving,
More than the girl I miss –

Oh how I’ll share bed and dreams,
And so certain this seems
So sweet this wife…
This unlived life

Another day, like and unlike any other; although I feel a the weight of heavier things tonight, having impulsively checked my blood pressure today to discover it not what it once was; however, neither is my lifestyle. Heart disease is called the silent killer, for going on visible looks alone I look great, aging well as some fortunate men do. Had I been overweight I would not have excused myself from the gym as I have these past twelve months. Too many brevé lattés and not enough vigirous exercise have put me in the first stage of hypertension. The men in my family have not led long lives; in as many generations as I am familiar with, going back to my great-grandfathers, I believe at north of sixty, my father is the longest lived of the bunch – quite the miracle when you consider the fact that he suffered a massive heart-attack three years ago.

Needless to say, it is not without irony that I put my arm in the BP sleeve at the pharmacy where my father was picking up his heart meds after we met for lunch today. How frightful it is to know your mortality exists. As one writer wrote: “The young never think they are going to die,” which every person young or old knows to be true; and excepting that bout of blood poisoning last year, where I did stand one foot in the grave, I have never before thought serious my own death. True, I’ve written about it, thought about it – as a Stoic does – contemplated it in earnest to the best of my abilities, but now, now I see the waterfall at the end of the river, and the abyss is all at once real. And what of those spots I sometimes see? Yes, I – like you – will die.

I hope the benefit of today’s glimpse is twofold: firstly, I intend to alter my lifestyle, begenning with oatmeal breakfasts, no more luxuriant coffee drinks, and resuming a workout routine, and secondly, having felt the sand running through the hourglass today in those red numbers, I intend to double down on my dreams. Tonight I will lay me down to sleep and perhaps not since losing my virginity or falling in love, will I know that life will never again be the same. This is a big deal to me; going off the lifespan of my predecessors, it’s a late life wakeup call. Yes, I am only thirty. My dream of dreams is to be a grandfather and I face mortality with honest eyes not yet even having children. Scary, scary stuff.

If I was religious before I shall be saintly now, and if I had goals before, well, it’s today or never now.

Crazy, crazy thing this life is. I feel blessed though, for even while I contemplate shadows I see light: two ducks have presented themselves upon the dark glittering shore before me – and if the waters were pretty before they are brilliant now.

Yuna’s ‘Lullabies’ begins to play as I write this and I am sorry; like those two ducks we had peace and providence once upon a time, and G-d willing I shall not face my morning oats alone forever. Wanted: smart, enchanting girl to eat oats with – love part three: the sequel to the sequel.

I don’t even date now but given todays wake up, perhaps I ought. None of us knows when our final sunset will be; our final kiss.

Bubba Grew Up, Amen.

I’ve been working on another entry lately, spending the past few nights near the water, before bed, turning over big deep metaphors, trying to communicate the wisdom of hindsight, having made it out of the deep Dark Night of The Soul. But really, I’ve just gotta say:

Amen.

I breathe now to center myself. Big, deep, slow breaths. Wow. I am in awe.

I made it out of something I never thought I would. And there’s no asking why we suffer now; I have never been more free and light in all my life. 

Before, I had my cake – but now anything of the sort would merely be the icing. My world has become so much bigger now that I’ve found peace and happiness in myself. In this new lease on life I can eat my cake and have it too.

I am man: world unto himself. I’ve no girlfriend, no kids, not even a crush. I am completely free and following my dreams. I guess this is the tale of a recovered co-dependent, but I’ve found more than independence; I’ve found my identity; to quote J.K. Rowling, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” And at thirty I’ve finally forged a solid identity, founded upon my own rock bottom. I now have complete security in myself, complete confidence and faith in who I am.

I no longer live under the shadow of my own self-destruction as I did for so many years. I guess you could say I’ve made friends with my own worst enemy. I’m now a conscious parent to my own inner child, and he trusts me, secure in the knowledge that I will never again look for someone else to love him for no one can ever love him like I do.

I’ve had to come to terms with myself in order to be whole enough to love him. And he’s had to grow up too.

Yes, there are monsters in the closet bubba; and I their master, and they are healing too. It’s you and I and the ghosts – friendly as Casper now that I’ve accepted the depravity in them.

The launch codes are finally out of reach, safely left in the past, where they belong. And I Thank the Gods every single day for this Grace, making sure the spirit satisfies what the flesh never could.

Journal: Routine, Civic Duty, and Nights on The Shore

17 June, 2015

Writing on my phone, on the shore, under the stars; routine. From the 17th century French word route, meaning ‘road’, and from the Latin ruptus, meaning ‘broken’. It’s the broken road I take. Broken because it’s not the journey, that is whole, but taking the journey that makes us whole.

It was trying to escape the broken road fate hath lain before me that drove me mad. Mad to drink, mad to hate, mad to think I knew better than love what love was.

But now, though the road be broken, I traverse it ensconced in the familiar security and protection of routine, placing more of my life within my relative control and providing me with the simple things I have grown to depend on. Just as my cappuccino comes hot, the night comes cool; the air fresh and refreshing; the night breeze, soft on my face, has even grown familiar and comforting.

Another aspect of my routine, my sanctity, is volunteering at the library: a civic institution. From the Latin civicus; from civis, meaning ‘citizen’ and icus, meaning ‘belonging to, derived from, pertaining to, or connected with’.

For I am no longer a stranger, estranged from my hometown, but a citizen, and the library belongs to me and I belong to it. Hence, it is my civic duty. But it’s also so much a pleasure: intermingling with my fellow citizens: Cathi and Richard and Louisa and a small, eclectic group of others who are kind to me. Lovely people.

I haven’t even told them I am moving back to LA, but I already know I will ride the train down the coast every month to spend a couple afternoons with them and my nights here: writing on the shore.


Post publish edit: I feel it pertinent in writing on the subject of my routine to note that aside from volunteering thrice weekly and writing nightly, upon awaking and before sleep I daily recite to myself the things I am grateful for as well as my creed. These two things have been a wellspring of good.

This is Who I Am – Reflections on Quantum Change

One thing I’ve learned about life is that we never know what the future holds.

Over the past four years I’ve been in a place of self-discovery – and as anyone knows who has been there, it’s a hell of a ride and it won’t let you off until it’s done with you – until you have gained what you needed to gain in order to move on.

And like the man shipwrecked, eventually you wash up on the shore and find yourself looking up at a clear blue sky.

It’s difficult to come out of something like this – where you are suddenly in a place where the fear is gone – and to start going all Eckert Tolle with your sudden clarity, but I wanted to share a resource I put together so that others may benefit from it.

And there is very much a part of me that doesn’t want to share things like this out of my own selfish inclinations to keep myself guarded, but that’s not how I want to live.

And as a note to anyone who feels lost right now: there is a rainbow of transformation at the end of it if you can keep your soul intact through everything; if you can remember who you are while being open to completely changing. Know that it’s possible to hold onto the parts of you that are sacred while releasing everything else. Take advantage of the opportunity to go through a quantum change and seize it. Eventually, all the questions you have been asking will answer themselves and the asking will cease to matter and you will learn to care far less about the things you think. And just maybe, you will learn that you are not a body and a mind, but a soul. And if that happens then you can step out of your head and change everything.

What follows are a series of reminders and affirmations about who I am and what’s important to me at 29. What helped me create these was taking a hard and honest look at who I am versus who I have pretended to be, as well as the mistakes I have made in my twenties, and the impact they have had on my life.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/238606164/This-is-Who-I-Am

 

P.S. I never thought I would be so thankful for this time in my life, but at this point I am overcome with an almost undeserved gratitude at the fact that I went through this quarter life crisis of mine – despite all the pain I went through to get here. There’s just a lightness to my soul that I didn’t think would ever be possible.

P.P.S. The music of John Mayer has been a truly valuable and therapeutic tool in this journey of mine, from listening to ‘In Repair’ at my lowest, to ‘Gravity’ at my most melancholy, to ‘Stop This Train’ at my most nostalgic, to being able to finally get ‘Shadow Days’. (I could seriously write a novel on his music) As an artist he has really managed to define and illustrate the lessons of a quarter life crisis – something he admitted to going through himself. In fact I would almost say that he could be the Patron Saint of my quarter life crisis. I am so thankful for his music. And I don’t know if this particular song will speak to others, but for whatever reason it’s found me now.

What David Foster Wallace Taught Me: Art as an Anesthetic for Loneliness

DFW

We’re existentially alone on the planet. I can’t know what you’re thinking and feeling and you can’t know what I’m thinking and feeling. And the very best works construct a bridge across that abyss of human loneliness.

David Foster Wallace David Foster Wallace wrote that “Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else.”

Tonight, I thought of this as I watched a dog awaken from his slumber beneath a patio dining table with the sullen look in his eyes of a lonely child who wakes up to an empty room.

Seated above him was a family of four, warm and loving, noshing on their sushi and quietly enjoying the evening together. The dog, while surely a member of the family, was physically present but gave off the energy of someone deep in their own world – like catching a glimpse of someone on a walk alone, a snapshot of a face far away in thought – and whatever the subject of his thoughts may have been, like all thoughts, they were encoded in a cryptic language, their contents known only to the thinker himself; a citizen of his own skull; a box of bones no one else would ever know.

For a moment I saw what an outward projection of that unspoken belief [that deep down we are different] looked like. The dog knew that he was different from everybody else; he was – to me – a self-aware animal; he was not like the others, the others weren’t sleeping on the sidewalk during dinner. How I wanted to take that dog home and make him my equal. Maybe I would talk to him on long walks along the shore, nice thoughts.

Perhaps he was a spirit animal, a guide destined to remind me of some ancient ineffable truth; perhaps it was written that I witness him wake up and look around at the cool lonely evening. Maybe my perception of his disposition was merely a projection of my own. Questions that can only be answered by the ether of the universe, playful questions.

Would the dog have reminded David Foster Wallace of the loneliness of his own existence – as it had reminded me of mine?

David Foster Wallace wrote a lot of beautiful things on loneliness as it was an element of his life which his psyche would render him deeply familiar with [1] . And while I never knew him – I feel like I did. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer who is fond of illustrating “what it means to be a fucking human being” – or maybe, in borrowing the words of TLC’s Fanmail – it’s because Just like you, I get lonely too. Either way, his ghost haunts me because he was not altogether unlike me.

He was a messenger, someone who could speak for a certain intellectual sect of the populous in quirky and unapologetic sentences that tested the limits of the English language. He did not apologize for this, nor did he filter his writing to sanitize his output for easier digestion. Just watching an interview with him, it’s apparent that his mind had a few more gears than most. Now, I can hypothesize as to what the accompanying costs of a mind like that would have been, but even in my own hubris I do not claim to match the intellect of the late Mr. Wallace; however, I can only imagine the psychic burden of possessing such a deeply philosophical and analytical mind – especially one that ran at a pace as electric as Mr. Wallace’s.

And nonetheless, I entertain myself in asking whether – instead of taking this transportive journey in my head to some timeless space where the present reality becomes a lens through which I see the world – were I a different person with a different mind, would the thought merely have been: “cute dog”?

I suppose I’m parsing my thought process into an existential hypothesis that really has no bearing here beyond hemming and hawing over my own cognition. In light of the fact that I’ll never be able to comparatively measure my own thinking against anything other than behavioral output, I must admit that this has no application beyond a speculative thought exercise. I suppose the real tangible benefit then is whether this somehow is going to allow me to better understand my own psychology – a quest which I pursue through my writing in order to more effectively manage my own psyche.

I guess what it boils down to is that life can be a bit more mentally all-consuming for those quote intense thinkers for whom paradigms abound and life is constantly being interpreted through new lenses, moment by moment. Whether this contributes to loneliness, I’m not sure – but, as David Foster Wallace did, I too have struggled to reconcile with certain aspects of my psyche – namely a sort of sexual-like frustration at not getting out my thoughts and feelings, a condition David Foster Wallace described as being ‘marooned in our own skulls‘. Comparing a kind of intellectual loneliness to sexual frustration is an odd and potentially perverse choice of similes to the non-artist I suppose – but to the individual who regularly seeks le petit mort / catharsis / actualization through art, I hardly think drawing a parallel between sexual frustration and a sort of enigmatic artistic frustration is by any means a stretch of the imagination. Is the means to the end of each [art and sex] not meant to stave off loneliness – to recharge some fleeting part of our sanity by discharging our emotions? Are we not touching at the heart of Freudian catharsis?

I recognize that the previous paragraph is borderline mental masturbation [2] – save for the fact that it’s a clever reminder to the importance of creative expression – but, my point is: creative function serves to produce more than the output of creative works; it’s the act of creating itself which allows the artist to reconcile the tangled meaning of his inner-world through his conscious expression in the outer world. If he fails to do this, who will understand him? How will he fully understand himself? Will he not be lonely? Will he not then be left to chase away the loneliness he has failed to confront in his art? As I grow older the value of leaning on art (both composing poetry, and prose, and digesting it + music) has become one of the paramount pillars of my mind – allowing me to deal with feelings and moods too dark to chase away in the real world.

In arguably one of the David Foster Wallace’s greatest quotes, he distinguishes between things that chase away loneliness and things that treat it:

Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties — all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion — these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.

As someone who has personally found solace in precisely the things which David Foster Wallace lists as places where loneliness can be treated, I find this quote reflects a universal truth about the choice we have, our personal agency in deciding whether we are going to chase away loneliness or confront it, transfigure it, and treat it.

Loneliness untreated is a ticking time bomb, and there will be consequences to yourself and to those you love should you attempt to chase it away rather than treat it. The habit of chasing away loneliness is simply not something one can sustainably maintain; eventually every shred of the false comfort and security that you manufacture by chasing away loneliness is ripped away upon your inevitable and necessary return to reality. And when you have been stripped of the temporary refuge you sought, you will be left facing the very same loneliness you tried escaping: the scab comes off, you bleed again.

Ugly words, but not nearly as gripping as David Foster Wallace’s description of facing substance addiction from Infinite Jest:

–and then you’re in serious trouble, very serious trouble, and you know it, finally, deadly serious trouble, because this Substance you thought was your one true friend, that you gave up all for, gladly, that for so long gave you relief from the pain of the Losses your love of that relief caused, your mother and lover and god and compadre, has finally removed its smily-face mask to reveal centerless eyes and a ravening maw, and canines down to here, it’s the Face In The Floor, the grinning root-white face of your worst nightmares, and the face is your own face in the mirror, now, it’s you, the Substance has devoured or replaced and become you, and the puke-, drool- and Substance-crusted T-shirt you’ve both worn for weeks now gets torn off and you stand there looking and in the root-white chest where your heart (given away to It) should be beating, in its exposed chest’s center and centerless eyes is just a lightless hole, more teeth, and a beckoning taloned hand dangling something irresistible, and now you see you’ve been had, screwed royal, stripped and fucked and tossed to the side like some stuffed toy to lie for all time in the posture you land in. You see now that It’s your enemy and your worst personal nightmare and the trouble It’s gotten you into is undeniable and you still can’t stop.

The quest to chase away loneliness is indeed a slippery slope for many, one that can easily morph into the kind of toxic and dangerous, enslaving type vices; before too long, your escape becomes your morphine and you become a mouse seeking more of that substance / thing / feeling on your quest for an even mental keel. Vicious cycles are one of the few things that prevail in the battle to combat loneliness.

As David Foster Wallace further elucidates in Infinite Jest: Most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking.

It’s one of those opaque truths that define the way we operate in life: our relationship with our own thinking and whether we are in the habit of chasing away loneliness or treating it. David Foster Wallace talked about how to prevent going through life alone by choosing how to construct meaning from experience, by ‘learning how to think’:

Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliche about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” This, like many cliches so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no-bull- value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out.

But what happens when you fail at this? As Dave Wallace said, you will be totally hosed.

I imagine that for those beautiful minds who fail to live in a way that effectively treats their loneliness, they simply arrive in the place that many find unendurable.

For someone like David Foster Wallace, who had battled severe depression, this meant hanging himself and betraying the words he had once written: “That no single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable.”

For the millions of Heath Ledgers and Junior Seaus of the world, single moments indeed are unendurable. And it’s not just chasing away loneliness that can be disastrous – but perhaps even viewing the world in a way that gives way to loneliness.

In saying: Everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everyone else, was David Foster Wallace projecting his own egocentric paradigm, which reflected his personal thoughts and belief that deep down he was different from everybody else? It’s our differences that separate us and it’s separation that creates loneliness. And so it’s tragically ironic that David Foster Wallace himself told once an interviewer:

“The parts of me that used to think I was different or smarter or whatever, almost made me die.”

I certainly do not presume to decipher someone’s suicide, nor do I desire to; there exists a certain smugness to the idea of laying claim to knowing why someone choose to end their own life that I just don’t like, but David Foster Wallace didn’t cloak his struggle with depression in secrecy – something I find very brave of him. He eloquently describes both depression and loneliness throughout his writing, so much so that Salon.com called him The defining voice of depression.

It’s rare that minds like his open up, but when they do it becomes a doorway for the rest of us to journey into a world within ourselves that we wouldn’t otherwise be capable of understanding. This is quite a gift – as only someone who has passed through the mental gates of their own personal hell can accurately describe what the unrelenting grip of depression and loneliness feels like; without people like David Foster Wallace, depression and loneliness remain the elephant in the room; it’s there, but no one dare talk about it or try to transform it.

It’s this aspect of inherent generosity within David Foster Wallace’s writing that has benefited me in my attempt to better understand my own life. And because of this the substance of his writing remains an asset do me; it makes me less lonely. An objective which he had intentionally strived to achieve:

There are a few books I have read that I’ve never been the same after, and I think all good writing somehow address the concern of and acts as an anodyne against loneliness. We’re all terribly, terribly lonely. And there’s a way, at least in prose fiction, that can allow you to be intimate with the world and with a mind and with characters that you just can’t be in the real world. I don’t know what you’re thinking. I don’t that know that much about you as I don’t know that much about my parents or my lover or my sister, but a piece of fiction that’s really true allows you to be intimate with … I don’t want to say people, but it allows you to be intimate with a world that resembles our own in enough emotional particulars so that the way different things must feel is carried out with into the real world. I think what I would like my stuff to do is make people less lonely.

When we think of loneliness we construct our understanding of it around proximity and relationships, but as DFW wrote, “Loneliness is not a function of solitude”, and loneliness is not remedied when two people from subjective viewpoints intersect at the same point in space and time. Loneliness is something we experience when we are unable to express our inner-world; when we can’t reconcile the meaning of our internal truths through the lens of our external relationship with reality.

As Carl Jung stated in his biography:

Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.

David Foster Wallace echoes Jung’s sentiment about communicating the unseen in his views on writing fiction:

…writing fiction becomes a way to go deep inside yourself and illuminate precisely the stuff you don’t want to see or let anyone else see, and this stuff usually turns out (paradoxically) to be precisely the stuff all writers and readers share and respond to, feel.

Isn’t that called vulnerability? Okay, I’ll give it a try:

Having previously admitted this – yes, I sometimes get lonely; however, I do not over indulge in self-pity (at least I feel compelled to have to tell myself this). I might indulge in under and over sleeping, in mild agoraphobia, and in occasional culinary gluttony (an Oreo shake sounds delightful right now), but I do these things with a healthy dose of balancing guilt that prevents them from evolving into something more than unhealthy and immature defense mechanisms. We all slip up (don’t we?). For me, the cycle might be: 1. Feels like crap > 2. neglects health > 3. Feels guilt for neglecting health, gets ‘back on track’. Perhaps that’s simply self-abandonment, self-neglect. Either way, I’m not adverse to discussing the parts of me that make me human. As an adult I realize that there is no such thing as a hero without flaws. It’s not that I celebrate my flaws, but I believe in self-honesty; unfortunately, as David Foster Wallace one remarked: Genuine pathological openness is about as seductive as Tourette’s Syndrome.

Now obviously that’s simply the ego driven part of me acknowledging that sometimes my writing goes to places vulnerable that I cannot go to in real life (outside the bubble of a therapist’s office), and that by nature this kind of free, unmasked prose is antithetical to the ethos of American success culture and American machismo, but so far I am unable to produce this kind of writing without inserting an apologetic and excusatory clause such as this; although, I suppose I apologize in vain, as I long ago accepted that I would not be the kind of person who cared more about outward appearances than the authenticity of his own art; alas, the emperor knows he wears no clothes, for I am naked but only slightly ashamed.

But that’s what you sacrifice in art, you sacrifice what you have to to not be lonely.

Footnotes:

1. I’m taking a lot of liberty in saying this, and were he a living writer would I say this? I don’t know. I don’t query myself this because of his suicide, but rather because it’s typically not couth to draw inferences about someone’s real life from their fiction. David Foster Wallace had been in treatment for depression for twenty years and wrote beautifully on loneliness in a way that has connected with me deeply; he painted loneliness as only the lonely artist can.

2. Sorry for another seemingly hyperbolic innuendo, but yes – “mental masturbation” really is the linguistically correct choice here.

Redefining Forgiveness: Forgiving Others and Letting Go of The Past

Update 11/16/2014: I’ve published a new entry with 5 resources and activities for forgiveness. View it here.

Serendipity is one of the few experiences that has given me something akin to palpable spirituality.

I need to remind myself of this, because this post isn’t about spirituality or serendipity, but it’s important and it’s meaningful to me, and without spirituality or serendipity, I wouldn’t have had the impetus for waking at 5am this morning and thinking about forgiveness, which this post is about.

But first, let’s briefly return to serendipity; for me, serendipitous experiences have always been born out of intuition. Not the serendipitous event itself, because the ethereal and spiritual coincidences that I call serendipity were never the actual path, which intuition led me down, but rather the happy accidents that I found on the path. Almost as if in trusting my intuition, the universe answered the question, which lay dormant inside of me, unbeknownst to all but my subconscious and the ether of the night sky under which I sleep.

And so it was, (in grand anti-climactic fashion) that yesterday evening, for no reason at all, other than the intangible sense there was something philosophical to be learned, that I felt compelled to watch The Lion King.

So, I procured a digital copy and did. There was nothing that particularly stuck out to me about the story or the dialogue, but nonetheless, it was enjoyable – and I felt no regret having spent the time watching it.

I then hung out with my girlfriend, and watched Game of Thrones, and then went to sleep. (I’ll get back to The Lion King Later.)

Then at 5am this morning I awoke with the impetus for this entry. And it was forgiveness I thought of. Forgiveness towards others in relation to forgiveness towards ourselves. And it wasn’t just a momentary thought, it was an overwhelming feeling that awoke me; a flood of thoughts.

My initial thoughts interspersed with this morning’s sleep were that in forgiving others we could open pathways to forgive ourselves and that in doing so we could free ourselves from many of the traps that an absence of forgiveness creates in life. For example: people often commit the same transgression for which they didn’t forgive another for in their past, i.e., a tragically ironic situation where a cycle of childhood hurt is continued, or, when someone is unfaithful to a partner, when the same had been done to them in a previous relationship (as the saying goes, hurt people hurt people). And, to this end, I began thinking about how when we don’t forgive, we are essentially accepting something as a normal behavior, in that we aren’t explicitly declaring that an offending behavior is below our expectations for life. But, on the other hand, when we choose to forgive ourselves and forgive others we are releasing the hurt and the hate, which in carrying around, we have essentially accepted as a part of life and as a part of ourselves.

I couldn’t help but feel the power in this awakening.

In hindsight, I began reflecting on research I had done the previous day for a poem I was writing about end of life regrets, and in thinking about forgiveness this morning, I couldn’t help but feel the elephant in the room seemed to be forgiveness itself; I couldn’t help but feel as if forgiveness would have been an antidote to major life regret for many, if not a possible route to avoiding the regret altogether.

But what do I know about forgiveness? Sure, I like to think that I’m a fairly emotionally whole person, and while there are many things I have forgiven – I don’t pretend for a second that there aren’t things I still haven’t forgiven others for and things that I haven’t forgiven myself for (and after this morning’s realization, I couldn’t help but see a very clear parallel between the two). I also sure as shit don’t pretend that the pain from those instances has been insignificant, or that my wellbeing hasn’t been significantly impacted as a result. Hell, it’s easy to forgive the things that don’t fuck us up, it’s the things we think about when we’re lonely and sad, pain that haunts us like a ghost in the night, those are the things we have the hardest time forgiving. For all the inner work I have done – therapy, reflection, writing, meditation – I know clear and well the score when it comes to the baggage I carry and which skeletons are still left in my closet. Even without my introspective nature, I’d likely be able to easily discern the major resentments I hold and the pain that I carry.

Who among us (even healthy self-aware people) doesn’t carry around their share of hate, hurt, regret, bitterness, resentment, and pain from the past? I would chalk it up to being human, but that would be a cop out.

When you realize just how much unresolved inner-conflicts and the unreleased pain and bitterness they impart within us effects our lives – even more so as we age and reflect back upon a life full of our share of disappointments, you begin to understand just how serious of an issue we are talking about here. If you don’t grasp the significance of what I am saying, look up the correlation between bitterness and disease. I’ll spare you the depressing links (Google is your friend.)

So, what can we do to free ourselves from the past? To release the negative feelings we are carrying?

First, let’s take stock of what the average person knows about forgiveness.

If you’re like me, and you were raised by normal parents, (regular people who were raised by other regular people) and not Psychologists or famed Humanist Philosophers, then it’s likely you know exactly dick about forgiveness.

Let me explain from my egocentric and ethnocentric American perspective. Having done a fairly decent about of research on forgiveness (I’m a speed reader and possibly slightly autodidactic), I can tell you that while parents and teachers “taught me” to forgive, I never really learned what forgiveness was.

You see, NONE of us are ever really taught what forgiveness is, instead, forgiveness is this funny thing that begins in early childhood when we are forced into forgiving someone for the first time (Have you ever seen a two year old have his favorite toy taken on the playground? Trust me – forgiveness isn’t inborn).

So, usually, we first learn forgiveness after little Johnny’s mom forces him to say sorry to us for talking our army guy away, or after dad tells our sibling to apologize for kicking us, so we look at the offender and begrudgingly say I forgive you (But come on, the little twerp took my toy! we think to ourselves). And this is how we learn the act of forgiveness. And unfortunately, we never get much better at it throughout life, it remains an act, and we suffer because we are acting as if we forgive others – when in fact, we haven’t been taught what it means to practice the art of forgiveness, which is a process, a habit, and something we must commit to wholly and genuinely – in a much different way than we learned as children.

Learning to forgive isn’t just about redefining how we forgive – it requires completely redefining what forgiveness is.

Forgiveness is not the pious, guilt-induced act of nobility that we were voluntarily forced into doing as children. That’s not forgiveness – that’s sanctimonious social posturing by parents who were taught the same by their parents, and are just doing their best to raise kids who aren’t entitled brats.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not decrying the adolescent brand of forgiveness where Tommy says “I’m sorry” to little Johnny for stealing his toys, and then little Johnny says to Tommy “I forgive you” and they shake hands and make up. That helps children learn moral boundaries and personal responsibility, as well as an important social skill – forgiveness. But – there’s a difference between forgiveness as a vital social skill, where Tommy and little Johnny play nice immediately afterwards, or when Tammy in the office eats your last Cliff Bar and you forgive her – and forgiveness as a life skill, when you find out your lover of X years is fucking your best friend. The transgression need not be that extreme to illustrate the difference between forgiveness as a child and forgiveness in the real world.

As a child, forgiving means getting over it and chasing each other again on the playground. As an adult, forgiveness can mean starting over in life. And even in less extreme instances, such as when a close friend hurts your feelings, as an adult it’s not as simple as saying “I forgive you” in response to their apology, and moving on. We of course instinctively know this, but culturally and socially we are still pressured to forgive or not. To make matters even more clouted, we’ve all heard the childish pleadings of: “I said I was sorry!”, in full expectation for us to automatically bestow our forgiveness upon their apology. And to make matters even worse, half the time, even as adults in cases of serious transgressions, the offending party isn’t even capable of apologizing, much less giving a proper, sincere apology (which I will explain later). And it’s not that I’m a pessimist when it comes to forgiveness, it’s just that the breed of forgiveness that got us through adolescence does little to serve us in the big leagues.

So, let’s start by redefining forgiveness from a humanistic, psychological perspective (this is very important, please read carefully):

What is Forgiveness
From The Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley:

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from accountability.
Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.

Please, read the above twice. (It’s written by the folks at UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center – many with PHD after their name.)

Essentially, forgiveness is the practice of moving forward with an open heart and letting go. Forgiveness is not a gift for others, it can be, but forgiveness is a gift for YOU.

It’s time to give yourself that gift.

Utilizing resources from The UC Berkeley, and Stanford University’s Forgiveness Project, I’ve created the following, which provides my interpretation of a whole, healthy approach to Forgiving Others and Letting Go of The Past.

Please bookmark and revisit as needed.

Forgiving Others and Letting Go of The Past

Here are seven steps for forgiving others and letting go of the past (plus one bonus):

1. Articulate The Wrongdoing:

“What this person did to me was not okay because ________________”

Be able to clearly articulate to yourself what was not okay about their behavior.

2. Express Your Present Feelings:

“My feelings about it today are____________________”

You must put your feelings into a present perspective in order to release the hurt you feel today, and recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts, and physical upset you are suffering now, not from what offended you or hurt you X years ago or even X minutes ago.

3. Feel Worthy:

“I deserve the peace and understanding that comes from removing the blame and releasing the negative feelings I have held onto, because_____________________”

Make a conscious choice to start feeling better and state why you feel worthy of feeling better: i.e., You deserve to feel better, you are a good person, and you want to move forward with your life.

4. Accept the Past:

“I am forgiving the past for ME and no one else. I am not condoning their actions and I understand that forgiveness is only a part of reconciliation, but I am choosing to reconcile this hurt with myself beginning today by freeing myself from the prison of the past I wanted and giving up all hope that the past can be any different.”

5. Take Back the Power Over Your Life:

“I am no longer going to give power to this person over me by focusing on my wounded feelings because________________”

State why this person no longer deserves power over your feelings i.e., they betrayed my trust, and caused me pain.

6. Redirect Your Energy & Attention:

“I am choosing to put my energy into new ways to get my positive goals met other than through the person and the experience that hurt me.”

I.e., redirecting your energy and attention to more positive memories, experiences, people, and opportunities.

7. Reframe The Past to Honor Your Forgiveness, & Appreciate What You Have:

“I am looking at the past in a new way that honors the heroic decision I have made to forgive. And I am reminding myself to focus on the love, beauty, and kindness around me, rather than focusing on what I do not have.”

8. See The Silver Lining (optional)

“Because of this hurt and this experience, I have learned to be more _________________”

I.e., focus on a positive trait, such as self-sufficient, independent, resilient, wise, or a positive lesson you learned – but remember, this is a silver lining for you to discover on your own- not a gift the person who hurt you gave you, or a favor they did for you you. Looking on the bright side and focusing on your strengths helps you move on and discover how you have evolved an grown to be a better person.

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Forgiving others and letting go of the past is a process, and these steps should be revisited as needed. You can do this. You deserve to be free.

But before I go, let me finish the story of serendipity and The Lion King. So, late this afternoon, I received an email with an answer to a question on Quora, which I am subscribed to.

This was the email:

20140611-025820.jpg

Picture and quote from Disney’s The Lion King. Rafiki!

Remember, hatred is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die and forgiving is merely giving up hope for a better past. You deserve peace. Start living free today. There is no better investment than doing the inner work on yourself to be whole, healthy, and happy. Just think, you’re already ahead of the game just having read this.

Why Not You, and Nine Modern Sonnets

Why Not You

I’m going to ask you to do me a favor
I want you to forget everything you ever knew
I want you to imagine that you are brand new to your body, and brand new to your life
What does the voice in your head sound like?
If it were a person, would it be someone whom you would like?
Would they be an encouraging friend? A steady, and warm pillar for the soul?
Because this, dear reader, this is the narrator of your life story
It’s your inner voice, which leads you to despair or to glory

And this voice can completely be changed
And a more compassionate, encouraging and positive inner disposition arranged
You need not sell your soul,
Or buy the seminar and the book
Just heeds the words of this poem and change your inner outlook
And all it takes is a moment to create change,
because trust me my dear reader, life is fucking strange
Why not you?

I want you to say it too,
Why not me?
Someone is going to do the thing you are dreaming about,
Why not you?

If it’s possible than it’s not impossible,
But you’re going to have to make it happen Jack (insert your name here)
Let me be clear
Today, THIS day is going to be the day someone turns it all around

This will be the day someone breaks sacred ground
Why not you?
And as a child we were taught that some people were great,
But they forgot to tell us that the world was ours too to create

Why not you?
It starts with your inner voice,
The sacred narrator responsible for your every choice
She’s (you’ve) got a few problems – but that’s okay,
He (you) just need to make the distinction between what to keep and what to give up today

This is your life and up until now your inner voice was shaped by a lot of factors,
But this is the movie of YOUR life and it’s time to fire the other actors
You are the star of your life, yet your parents never knew that the way they talked to you would one day become your inner voice
And now in this exciting moment you’ve got an important choice
Managing your own psychology is the most vital life skill,
But it requires a new relationship with yourself, objectivity, and will
So now we come to an important question:

Will you begin to observe and adapt, being now as you wish to be?
Or will you continue to blindly accept how you think and behave without smartly questioning, why not me?

Sonnet 1

I’ve found heaven and hell here on earth ,
for some between death and hell – neither is worse
because the path to hell needn’t be dressed in sin
and so I fear the confines of my own skin

For some it’s not even choice – it’s a game of chance ,
as one man mutters to himself
another makes love in the South of France
but you dear boy have been to hell and back ‘afore

And soon you’ll reside in this purgatory no more
but it’s a long way from crumpled and crying on the bathroom floor
a long way from drunk and not giving a fuck
I keep telling myself that the longest way round is the shortest way home

And I picture a world with a wife and three kids, a world I dearly hope to know
but I’ve been for so long so low and so alone

Continue reading “Why Not You, and Nine Modern Sonnets”