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Meditations: Session Five – On Desire

I used a new guided meditation tonight, from my favorite Meditation Guide, Paul Santisi.

It’s a neat guided meditation, and really exercises your imagination as well. You can check it out here:

I’m looking forward to repeating this.

Below are the notes taken after my meditation, per usual – and while this my most succinct set of post meditation notes to date – I still feel that I got exactly what I needed, which my meditations ALWAYS provide me.

Desire

  • Desire must outweigh fear
  • Desire must be cultivated
  • It’s a process – you have to feel it constantly – you have to engage it
  • You have to live in possession of your desire
  • Remove time from the equation. Direct your attention and your efforts

##

Misc:

Last night I was mapping virtues and values and I wrote down the following:

Passion, desire, and intention come from faith.

After meditating, I went for a run on the beach, and in walking and reflecting on my desire meditation, I really got a sense of the importance of having a burning desire backed by a spiritual confidence – a strong faith that serves to counter any fears and insecurities.

Humans, Listen to Your Raccoon King: Drop Out of The Cult of Self-Esteem in Favor of Your Rational Animal Confidence

This morning I came across an entry on a blog I follow that addressed the potential harm in the pursuit of self-esteem.

I’m glad I came across this because I thought about this very topic last night as I was working on mapping my values and virtues. In fact I opted not to list self-esteem as either a mental or an emotional virtue because I think the concept of self-esteem is garbage.

Let’s look into this further.

Famed psychologist Albert Ellis – like him or not – was a vocal opponent of self-esteem. I haven’t read (nor do I feel compelled to read) his book ‘The Myth of Self-Esteem‘ -one of about 80 books he published during his lifetime – but Ellis posited that the pursuit of self-esteem was self-defeating because it reduces our worth to the sum of our accomplishments.

Another book, House of Cards, written by Robin Dawes reflects a view of self-esteem similar to Ellis’.

From an LA Times review of House of Cards:

Belief: Self-esteem is the key ingredient in well-being and achievement; low self-esteem is the main cause of drug abuse, violence and teen-age pregnancy.

Fact: Literally thousands of studies have failed to support this belief, which guided the California Task Force on Self-Esteem. As Dawes observes, the task force performed an unintended public service; it demonstrated that “the Holy Grail of pop psychology”–the belief that high self-esteem is the ticket to happiness and low self-esteem is the cause of social problems–“is nothing more then a mirage.” What research does show is that children need a sense of competence and mastery at learning new skills. Self-esteem will follow.

My personal views support this. I feel self-esteem is a concept rooted in classic American egoism that has passed its pop psychology expiration date. If there is such a thing as self-esteem, then it is the product of self-sufficiency and competence, rather than the cause of. Further, I view the concept of self-esteem in a similar light to Ellis in that I feel it is too externally rooted in achievement and accomplishment, and therefore does not provide an individual with an accurate self-assessment of his or her actual potential to achieve what he or she wishes to accomplish.

As a result, an individual’s tendency to focus on self-esteem and ‘feeling good about oneself’ causes them to base their confidence in performing specific tasks on their overall perceived worth, rather than their self-efficacy in a given area.

So if not self-esteem, what then?

As previously noted – I excluded self-esteem from my own list of mental and emotional values and virtues; however, I did include self-compassion, self-confidence, rationality, as well as optimism and a positive mindset. (This was among many others listed according to my ideal of my actualized physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, professional, social, and intellectual self).

In focusing on the above concepts, I can apply this combination of self-compassion, self-confidence, rationality, and an optimistic and positive mindset, to examine a given area of my life in a manner that enables me to provide myself with a supportive and encouraging inner-voice. Without this, I would be limited to the biased and narrow-minded viewpoint that the cult of self-esteem has doomed so many of us to.

It’s troubling to me that the cult of self-esteem places self-image and self-worth on a pedestal – for the problem is not in building lasting overconfidence, but that this inflated sense of worth (a bubble if you will) inevitably bursts once an adult faces a world devoid of the teachers, parents, and suitors who for so long held their ego up in an unsustainable light.

This video illustrates this concept perfectly:

Maybe we all need a little tough love mixed with unconditional self-acceptance in order to shake off some of the vain baggage and insecurity that self-esteem has wrought so many of us with.

Fuck self-esteem. Ah, doesn’t that feel good to say. Seriously, the more you demistify the constructs of society that are designed to provide you with unsustainable and worthless pleasures, the more you can free yourself to pursue the kind of lasting fulfillment and self-worth that no one can ever deny you – least of all yourself.

I’m reminded of a zen proverb (ahem, sorry – ‘Ancient Toltec Wisdom’) from the book The Four Agreements, in which author Don Miguel Ruiz states that we should take nothing personally, in other words – someone should be able to tell us we are the best person in the world, or the worst, and either should mean nothing to us.

I’m not telling you to abandon the positive feeling of approval, but the conversation you have with yourself, is far more important than the conversation you have with others.

And as I read this morning in The Pythagorean Sentences of Demophilus, written over 2,400 years ago:

“Consider both the praise and reproach of every foolish person as ridiculous”

In short, do not derive your own worth from the appraisal of others.

Now, I task you with reading the Wikipedia entry on self-esteem and thinking for yourself as you read it – maintaining objectivity as you review the widely held notions on self-esteem, and the overwhelming societal and intellectual value of self-esteem as a whole.

It would seem to me that any rational human being with a healthy self-confidence should realize what an absurdly maladaptive practice it is to subscribe to the idea that positive self-esteem is something we should aspire to be able to posses.

It is your right – it is your duty – to feel good about who you are, to love yourself with compassion, to be rational, and to be optimistic and positive about your present and future potential.

I will leave you with the image of a raccoon. Do you think the raccoon denies himself the fulfillment of his nature, his raccoonness? Do you think the raccoon is thinking he is not worthy of being good at being a raccoon and having what he deserves and wants? Do you think the raccoon lets anyone else deny him of that? Hell no. So why the hell would you as a human do any of this? Oh that’s right, because you’re human and other humans told you that your value was dependent upon certain conditions, and that if you didn’t meet those conditions, then you weren’t good. Right now I want you to claim your value back; reclaim your innate worth that existing as a unique living being entitles you too. Don’t subscribe to the idea that someone else’s opinion of you has to become your reality. Because ultimately that’s what subscribing to the cult of self-esteem is signing you up for. If your reality doesn’t dictate the world, the world will dictate your reality – stop giving self-esteem that power over you. Internalize the rational animal confidence into your psyche, and stop following the cult of self-esteem that so many humans buy into.

Am I anti self-esteem? You betch’ur raccoon ass I am. I am rational, self-loving, confident, healthy, optimistic, and positive minded – and I would never let someone or something else decide what I am worthy of feeling, accomplishing, or possessing. That would be [thinking I need self-esteem to be worthy would be] madness for a raccoon king like me.

I'm a Raccoon King

Art credit.

 

The Big Four: How The Navy Seals Effectively Combat Fear

Someone in my Stoicism philosophy group recommended this video to me and I am LOVING what I’ve learned about how the US Navy Seals (HOOYAH GO NAVY!) have integrated four specific cognitive behavioral techniques into their training program to help trainees combat fear.

Watch from 2:47 to to 18:30 – trust me, you’ll likely enjoy it – I certainly did! (the rest of the video did bore me though, and I did not care to finish it).

The following is transcribed verbatim from the video:

The techniques that we are most interested in are what I call the Big Four:

1. Goal Setting
2. Mental Rehearsal
3. Self-Talk
4. Arousal Control

 Goal Setting

Scientists think goal-setting works by assisting the Frontal Lobes. As the brain’s supervisor, the Frontal Lobes are responsible for reasoning and planning. Concentrating on specific goals lets the brain bring structure to chaos, and keeps the Amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, in check.

Mental Rehearsal

The second technique, Mental Rehearsal, or visualization, is continually running through an activity in your mind so when you try it for real it comes more naturally.

If you practice in your mind first and rehearse and imagine how you might do in these stressful situations, the next time, in reality, you’re faced with these situations – it’s actually in effect the second time you’ve faced it, so you’ll have less of a stressful reaction.

Self Talk

The third technique, self-talk, helps focus the trainees thoughts. The average person speaks to themselves at a rate of 300 to 1,000 words a minute – if these words are positive instead of negative, can do, instead of can’t, they help override the fear signal coming from the Amygdala.

The Frontal Lobes are always on, so it’s very easy to think about something difficult, something bad like I’m going to fail, what am I doing here, I didn’t practice enough. What you’re trying to do is you’re trying to replace those bad thoughts with good thoughts.

Arousal Control

The final technique, Arousal Control, is centered on breathing. Deliberate slow breathing helps combat some of the effects of panic. Long exhales in particular mimic the body’s relaxation process, and get more oxygen to the brain so it can perform better.

Breathing is a great focusing strategy, but you can only do it so much because in in response to fear your brain will get jacked up.

On it’s own, arousal control wouldn’t work – the Amygdala sends out such a powerful signal, it’s tough to suppress if we’re still feeling fearful – but combining the four techniques made a big difference to the trainee Seals pass rate, increasing it from a quarter to a third.


# end of verbatim transcription #

Author note: This blog is a personal blog, there is and will never be an agenda to anything I post other than my own personal desire to grow and express myself (and to benefit my family and my dear readers), and I state this, because when I come across something like this, I don’t just ‘blog it’ and forget about it – I make it a part of my life, of my mental programming, and I return to it, and I study it. I’m not sitting here typing this stuff up in an attempt to aggregate a search query from google, or to make  money. I state this because I hope that you, my reader, will not simply dismiss something you read here because of the abundance of free and purportedly helpful information available online. I know I sometimes make that mistake too, but it’s much easier for me to accept the value of something when I know there is no monetary or ulterior motive behind its production and publication. So, long story short – this is great stuff. The Navy Fucking Seals are using it with significant success. These concepts make complete sense and there is no reason why you too can’t transform your life with them. I know I plan on it.

Each of The Big Four techniques detailed above (1. Goal Setting, 2. Mental Rehearsal, 3. Self-Talk, 4. Arousal Control) has far reaching benefits beyond countering and calming the brain’s natural fear responses. These are major pillars of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I think this is an excellent framework. It’s unfortunate there isn’t more info available on the Big Four.

Edit: I found a former Seal trainee’s account of the Big Four, which provides additional detail and perspective, and I am publishing a quote of below for posterity’s sake:

THE BIG FOUR; KEYS TO MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Goal Setting Through Segmenting: All of us have heard of goal setting. However, not all of us do it effectively. Segmenting is breaking a large task into smaller, more achievable goals. Not looking ahead all the time at everything you need to do to achieve the task but staying in the present and looking simply at what you have to do today or before each meal. It’s like the old adage “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Master Chief told us exactly how to break up the humongous task of getting through BUDs. “One meal at a time,” was our motto. Anyone can make it to the next meal. Once you make it to lunch then you focus on making it to dinner. At the start of BUDs, I focused on working from meal to meal but I also broke it down to even smaller parts during surf torture, long, cold swims, and brutal conditioning runs. “Just get to the next minute, the next sand bar, past this section of the beach,” I thought to myself. I also focused on a slightly bigger picture and set an initial goal of just making it to the end of each week. Weekends are rest and recovery time at BUDs and students are free to do whatever they please. Segmenting sounds like such a simple idea but how many of us use it effectively? I think as triathletes we can use segmenting over the course of our season, not just in an Ironman, to keep us focused, patient, and on a path to successful racing.

External and Internal Visualization: “Worrying is praying for something you don’t want. If you worry about it enough, it will happen.” Visualization is the antidote for anxiety, nervousness, and worry. In your mind, visualize yourself successfully going through each step needed to complete the task in detail through your own eyes (Internal). Then visualize seeing yourself successfully negotiating that same task as if you were watching yourself on video. Do this over and over. Go to a quiet place if you can, close your eyes, and visualize yourself internally and externally. When I was coaching, I used to tell cyclists that were afraid to descend at high speeds to focus on where you want to go instead of all the places you don’t want to end up. At BUDs I used this when we were waiting for our turn on the Obstacle Course. We had to negotiate all nineteen obstacles in under eleven minutes. Any obstacle that took you more than three attempts was an automatic failure. Failures were sent to remediation with more physical punishment as a reward. BUDs is hard enough. Avoiding extra doses of pain could mean the difference between passing and failure in another evolution in the day. Even though I knew I could negotiate each obstacle; waiting in line and not wanting to fail could cause unwanted anxiety. Visualization was my weapon against this.

Self Talk: Self talk is self affirmation. “Belief in yourself is the number one thing that will get your through BUDs. Believe in the program, training and where it will take you,” said Master Chief. Action (event), Belief (experience, prejudices, biases, stereotypes), Consequences (possible outcomes). Every task we encounter has these factors surrounding it. “Beliefs” are improved by self talk which equals a better consequence. All of us that compete have had a bad experience one time or another. A bike crash, being unable to finish a workout, bonking, gastric distress, cramps, equipment problems, or battling through an injury. These prior experiences can have a negative influence on a future consequence whether we realize it or not. Talking to yourself, believing in your training, your equipment, and trusting yourself to know what to do in the event things don’t go your way can mean the difference between success and failure. Every morning at BUDs, during the run to chow I would talk to myself as well as talk to God. I’d remind myself how hard I’ve worked to get to this point and that this day would soon pass. I would talk to myself during those cold two mile ocean swims and the dark four mile timed runs along the beach. “Just get to that buoy, just get to those rocks on the beach, you’re not cold” were things I said to myself.

Arousal Control; 4 x 4 x 4 breathing: People can react to a stressor in different ways. For instance, if an individual perceives the stressor as a challenge to his/her control of a situation, norepinephrine, the “fight ” hormone is predominantly released. And, if the stress arousal increases and a possible loss of control is felt by the individual, then epinephrine, another “flight/anxiety” hormone is released. When the stress is prolonged and seen as hopeless, the individual becomes more distressed and feels defeated. This activates the hypothalamus in the brain. What follows is a cascade of hormonal pathways resulting in the final release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex (of the kidney). The HPA Axis (Hypothalmus Pituitary Adrenal Axis) is a term describing the connection between your brain, pituitary, adrenal gland in relation to stress. During times of stress, the pituitary gland releases cortisol and the balance of cortisol in comparison to other hormones (DHEA, Testosterone, and Estrogen) is high. An increase in cortisol naturally occurs during the day and is highest in the morning and later afternoons as well as in times of stress. In a healthy person, the balance of hormones fluctuates naturally throughout the day. During normal, healthy sleep levels of cortisol are low allowing the body to repair and rebuild itself. High levels of cortisol as a result of stress or over training inhibit this process. In addition to affecting recovery, high or prolonged amounts of cortisol reduces blood flow to the muscles as well as limit the amount of glucose that the body is able to use. It affects athletic performance negatively as in the flight or defeat response.

To combat this, Master Chief Guile introduced us to 4 x 4 x 4 breathing in which you inhale for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and continue to perform this rhythmic breathing for four minutes. This pattern mimics REM sleep patterns, controls arousal, and keeps the cortisol balance in check. I found this extremely effective while waiting to do the obstacle course and before “drown proofing” or knot tying. It allowed me to keep my heart rate down, kept anxiety in check, and helped me go into a stressful situation calm, relaxed, and confident.

Before a race, time trial, or for those with the fear of open water swimming 4 x 4 x 4 breathing is an invaluable tool to combat an increased amount of cortisol. It works just as well for a speech, an interview, or presentation.

These tools are the basics of mental toughness and how aspiring Navy SEALs learning early on what it takes to be the best at what they do. Whether you are gearing up for an Ironman, an important presentation, or simply trying to get through a stressful day give these tactics a try.”

Edit 2: Also found a great presentation on the topic that provides additional details, here

also, here: The Big Four Mental Toughness.

Future Reading: one of the things that is covered in the self-talk technique, is the concept of ABC (Activator / Adversity, Belief, Consequence), by Albert Ellis, who helped originate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Here is a great document on the ABC approach to stress reduction, which I plan on writing about soon.

P.S. Anyone else like how the Seals refer to visualization as mental rehearsal…. quite a paradigm shift for those using ‘visualization’ to set goals.

Notes and Lessons from Napoleon Hill’s 1928 Masterpiece: Outwitting The Devil

Update: Jan 2017 – just going to leave this here: 

https://www.google.com/amp/paleofuture.gizmodo.com/the-untold-story-of-napoleon-hill-the-greatest-self-he-1789385645/amp?client=safari

– Not to detract from the man’s work, but the above read was eye opening to say the least. Take what you will with a grain of salt, the entry below included.


As a follow-up to yesterday’s entry on Napoleon Hill’s Outwitting The Devil, tonight I wanted to publish some of the key notes I copied as when I read the book today.
Let me preface this by saying holy shit, this is a masterpiece. Keep in mind the finished manuscript was locked away by Hill’s spouse and her surviving family for over 70 years, before being published in 2011 when ownership of the rights moved to a non family member – so it never received much attention, unlike Think and Grow Rich, which has sold over seventy million copies.

The reviews of Outwitting The Devil on Amazon are glowing – despite a seemingly unanimous dislike for the influence of new age author Sharon Lechter, of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame. And personally, I agree – her [Sharon Lechter’s] influence cheapens the value of such a masterpiece. And I don’t use this word [masterpiece] lightly.

Back when I used to used to review beer, there was an important concept that the savvy reviewer would employ when reviewing a given beer – and it was the idea that the beer should be compared to the other beers within it’s genre. Similarly, in this case, I am not calling it a masterpiece compared to Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I am calling it a masterpiece against every success oriented, self-help / positive psychology book I have ever read – including greats like the Power of Positive Thinking, and even Hill’s own magnum opus, Think and Grow Rich.

Mind you, I have been reading self-improvement and positive psychology for nearly two decades. What I have come to find is that the New Thought originals – Napoleon Hill, James Allen, Norman Vincent Peal, and Earl Nightingale laid the groundwork for virtually everything that has since been published in the genre. These men were basically the Founding Father’s to the positive psychology / philosophy of success movement. 

After listening to and reading Outwitting The Devil, I really am taking a look at how much more benefit I can expect to gain from reading new philosophy of success books on a regular basis. You can read every single approach and theory to success in the world, but at a certain point you have to put aside your identity as a student of life so that you can be a leader in your own life. In other words, if you aren’t actively applying the principles you have learned then you aren’t extracting any value from learning. You need to get into the field. You need to hit live balls. Plus, let’s be real – there are a lot of shuckters rehashing timeless wisdom to people looking for answers. Do you want to spend your life listening to audio and reading books, or do you want to go out there and put what you have learned into practice and turn dreams into reality.

That being said, it’s extremely important to maintain your mindset and there is a lot of value in feeding and watering your mind to maintain fertile ground. I’ve known successful people in their later decades who still listened to the classics on a weekly basis – coincidentally, they did so while driving or otherwise occupied (working out).

I personally wish to do the same, so that I am making the maximum use of my time achieving my goals and dreams, rather than mentally masturbating over them during time I could otherwise be productive. And this may not be the right path of study for everyone, but at 29 years old I am ready to make that transition in my philosophy of success journey, and a large part of this is due from reading Outwitting The Devil – and the accompanying lessons I have learned. Lessons, which I am publishing for preservation, and future reflection / study here.

It should also be noted that I am increasingly interested in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, self-talk, and Stoicism as a means to manage my psyche, so I do not plan on abandoning my focus there, just divesting my interest from pure philosophy of success teachings.

Below are my notes and excerpts highlighting the most important teachings from Outwitting The Devil. The headings and italicized text are my own, the remainder are verbatim from Outwitting The Devil – much of the italicized text has been translated from statements into affirmations using the second person ‘you’ pronoun, which has been shown to be more effective than “I”.

Continue reading “Notes and Lessons from Napoleon Hill’s 1928 Masterpiece: Outwitting The Devil”

Napoleon Hill: Outwitting The Devil

Update: Jan 2017 – just going to leave this here: 

https://www.google.com/amp/paleofuture.gizmodo.com/the-untold-story-of-napoleon-hill-the-greatest-self-he-1789385645/amp?client=safari

– Not to detract from the man’s work, but the above read was eye opening to say the least. Take what you will with a grain of salt, the entry below included.


tl;dr – I am incredibly excited about this discovery. I am buzzing with excitement. The 1938 manuscript Outwitting The Devil was released in 2011 and having come across it this evening, I cannot get enough. Scroll to the bottom for embedded audio.

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In my youth I first read Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich, and I think I can trace a lot of my success in the years since back to that crucial stone in my path.

This evening, I came across something pretty awesome while watching youtube videos. And when I say awesome, I mean really awesome. I’m excited about this. I’m excited for anything that sparks a light within me capable of extinguishing fear, doubt, and worry.

What I came across was an audio version of an obscure Napoleon Hill manuscript, titled: Outwitting The Devil.

As the audio tells, the book was written in 1938, but wasn’t released for more than seventy-two years. Mind you, Think and Grow Rich has sold over 70 million copies worldwide – so why was this manuscript locked away for the better part of a century?

Wikipedia explains:

Just after the release of Think and Grow Rich in 1937, Hill began writing Outwitting the Devil as an explanation of why some were still seeing failure after following all of the steps in Think and Grow Rich. His wife, Annie Lou, did not want the book published because of the role the Devil played in it. When Hill died in 1970, the manuscript went in the possession of Annie Lou, who died in 1984. After her death, the manuscript went into the hands of Dr. Charles Johnson, who was Annie Lou’s nephew and president of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. While Dr. Johnson believed the book’s message to be powerful, his wife, Frankie Johnson, shared Annie Lou’s feelings and told Dr. Johnson that she did not want the manuscript published while she was alive. After Frankie’s death, Dr. Johnson passed the manuscript to Don Green, CEO of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Sharon Lechter was then asked to edit the manuscript, and after several years of annotations and reviews, it was released in June, 2011.

While I am only one hour into the six hour audio, I’ve already gathered that the manuscript has an almost Jungian mythological quality to it – and this too would have likely made Napoleon Hill seem a quack had it been released during his lifetime.

And let me state, I enjoyed Think and Grow Rich, but compared to this, it’s a snoozer. Outwitting The Devil exceeds every expectation I could have had for it. The author [Hill] tells a story of his inner psyche and is at times vulnerable and human in ways he was not in Think and Grow Rich. The audio contains numerous passages that strike me as profound, and listening to it feels almost like a meditation, and leaves me with the same feeling I got reading Steinbeck for the first time when I was 12. It’s captivating.

In Outwitting The Devil I find a narrative written in sometimes beautiful prose, which goes far deeper than the superficial pseudo science and monotony of most self-help books – classics included.

Here’s a sample passage:

During my quarter century of research into the causes of success and failure I have discovered many principles of truth, which have been helpful to me and to others, but nothing I have observed has impressed me more than the discovery that every great leader of the past whose record I have examined was beset by difficulties and met with temporary defeat before arriving… this would seem to justify the conclusion that infinite intelligence has a plan, or a law, by which it hurdles men over many obstacles before giving them the privilege of leadership or the opportunity to render useful service in a noteworthy fashion. 

Now, I would not wish to again be subjected to those experiences through which I passed during that fateful Christmas eve in 1923, and since on that eventful evening when I walked around the schoolhouse in West Virginia and fought that terrible battle with fear, but all the wealth in the world would not induce me to divest myself of the knowledge I have gained from those experiences. 

Faith has a new meaning to me.

I repeat that I do not know exactly what this other self is, but I do know enough about it to lean upon it in a spirit of absolute faith in times of difficulty when the ordinary reasoning faculty of my mind seems to be inadequate for my needs. 

I repeat that I do not know exactly what this other self is, but I do know enough about it to lean upon it in a spirit of absolute faith in times of difficulty when the ordinary reasoning faculty of my mind seems to be inadequate for my needs. 

As someone who is interested in both philosophy and psychology, I absolutely love this material. As one Amazon review says of the recently released manuscript “It isn’t new age to me, but old age, and science and thought is [sic] just catching up”.

But Outwitting the Devil is not just about a philosophy of living or the psychology of fear and success – it’s also about spirituality, and contrary to the title – it’s more about the devil within yourself than it is about the existence of an evil deity.

As an aside: Personally, I do not believe in a devil, or a hell (beyond the one we are capable of creating on earth for ourselves) – but I’m glad I did not let the seemingly religious title put me off. The devil is merely a metaphor, and this is not a work of religious zealotry.

Listening to this, I am nothing short of enthralled. Easily one of my new favorite works of non-fiction.

Note, pay little mind to the Sharon Lechter woman narrating on occasion, many Amazon reviewers loathed her contribution and feel it added her own neo-conservative beliefs to an otherwise flawless work. I’m more than half-inclined to agree. 

Without further ado – I present to you:

Edit: When you reach the section where Hill ‘interviews the devil’, be prepared for a thrill! It’s as dramatic and Shakespearean as anything I have ever heard. Damn, this is good!!! What I wouldn’t give to see this made into a play…

Edit 2: it’s 1:25 am, listening to in bed, not sure I’ll be able to sleep! It’s increasingly clear why Hill’s family did not want this released. In one passage the Devil character warns that this book ‘if published the book would be banned from public schools’ and that Hill himself ‘would be hated’. Hill goes directly after both public schools and organized religion as pillars that ‘strip people of their ability to think for themselves’. Pretty unreal stuff to listen too. Hill unplugged from the Matrix back in 1938.

Update: I’ve published a follow up entry to this with lessons and notes.

Poetry: This is Farewell

What can I say
That desire that you crushed
It was all that I had – that was the last of my trust
Once again you didn’t see that there was love behind my lust

And now you’re gone –
And I won’t see you again –
But I warned you –
We could never be friends

All I wanted was a moment to look in your eyes,
And I’d say this is it as we both started to cry
But as fate would have it,
There would be no goodbye

So this is farewell
This is farewell
This is farewell,
I keep telling myself, this is farewell

Denzel Washington: “You Already Have it, Claim it.”

For a time I didn’t believe in that spiritual spark, the one that fuels discoveries like this – and finding things like this, or rather – them finding me, was a rare occurrence; however, today I am back in the good graces of the universe, and my relationship with providence, with that spark which I call G-d, is once again a healthy one – a relationship of possibilities. As a result, that spark is continually presenting itself to me in the form of the right signs, messages, people, and lessons. I just can’t come across something like this at this time in my life and not feel a kind of humbling, awe inspiring gratitude. I wish the same for you my dear reader. Enjoy.

Note: There is a lot of good stuff in here. Certainly worth watching a few times, or saving to watch again in the future.

Poetry: Declarations of Small Consequence

He too loathed himself entirely before he came to the surface
And he too has some things he will take to his maker
And I thank him for warning me that it takes some time to cast off that darkness

Because it’s given me patience,
A virtue I never had much of
And amazingly, my soul is intact
Because it’s been some time
And I’m not calling
You see, I don’t miss anything,
I do not long or pine or pain or bathe in pity

It’s the future I long for
And I will not lose,
For my reach does not exceed my grasp
It was only a bramble in the path

And heaven is damn close to where I stand now
Trust me, I know it’s a long way from whence I came and only a short trip back
Well, rest assured, I’ll never go back
Because it wasn’t long ago I was the broken man,
Unflappable wings, unsteady heart

But I changed my disposition
And now it’s not much further to go
And there’s no secret longing,
There’s no Dear Amelia
There are no secrets I can’t die having not told now

Because I go to sleep like a baby
And I dream of what may come
G-d willing,
My redemption is near

I’ll make sure you know about it
Because it’s nothing to me now,
It’s nothing to do what you would –
But I would never,
Because family matters more to me than currency
So don’t think me your white knight
Because I would only ever give you a pearl necklace
Just a night

To be 29 again
Masculine and guilt free
It’s a year I’ll miss
All those quiet mornings and ocean swims
It feels like puberty again
Only this time I’m aware of my value

And this time I envy no man
And I see the spark of G-d in everything
And it feels like I have been born again
A son of the Stoa

Once a novice no more
Once again written in the book of destiny
We all die
But I’m content
And I think I’ll go back to sleep now
Because these declarations are of small consequence

Jules Evans: 8 Great Ideas from Stoicism

Note: The following non-italicized copy was originally published at Psychology Today, and I am republishing the content here for preservation’s sake.

According to Jules Evans, author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations: Ancient Philosophy for Modern Problems, a combination of philosophy and psychology is not only practical, but an effective way of approaching today’s problems. Not unlike cognitive-behavioral therapy, the classical ideas explored by Evans make use of the mind to deal with one’s less helpful emotions.

Of course, you can work with emotional pain in any number of ways. But for those with the tiniest bit of an analytic bent, or those who have been unhappy for way too long—like Evan’s himself was in his college years—this combo approach can be extremely helpful.

I found Evans’ book to be thoughtful and a pleasure to read, and even his appendices (especially Appendix 3 where he compares Socrates and Dionysus) are not to be missed. A journalist and writer, Evans is policy director at the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London, and helps run the huge London Philosophy Club. He’s also one of ten BBC Next Generation Thinkers for 2013.

Consider the following ideas, in Evans’ own words:

8 KEY IDEAS FROM STOICISM:

1) It’s not events that cause us suffering, but our opinion about events.

The Stoics thought we could transform emotions by understanding how they’re connected to our beliefs and attitudes. Often what causes us suffering is not a particular adverse event, but our opinion about it. We can make a difficult situation much worse by the attitude we bring to it. This doesn’t mean relentlessly ‘thinking positively’ – it simply means being more mindful of how our attitudes and beliefs create our emotional reality.

2) Our opinions are often unconscious but we can bring them to consciousness by asking ourselves questions.

Socrates said we sleepwalk through life, unaware of how we live and never asking ourselves if our opinions about life are correct or wise. The way to bring unconscious beliefs into consciousness is simply to ask yourself questions. Why am I feeling this strong emotional reaction? What interpretation or belief is leading to it? Is that belief definitely true? Where is the evidence for it? The Stoics used journals to keep track of their automatic responses and to examine them.

3) We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we react.

Epictetus, the slave-philosopher, divided all human experience into two domains: things we control, things we don’t. We don’t control other people, the weather, the economy, our bodies and health, our reputation, or things in the past and future.

The only thing we have complete control over is our beliefs – if we choose to exercise this control. But we often try to exert complete control over something external, and then feel insecure and angry when we fail. Or we fail to take responsibility for our own thoughts and beliefs, and use the outside world as an alibi. Focusing on what you control is a powerful way to reduce anxiety and assert autonomy in chaotic situations. The Serenity Prayer is a nice encapsulation of this idea.

4) Choose your perspective wisely.

Every moment of the day, we can choose the perspective we take on life, like a film-director choosing the angle of a shot. One of the exercises the Stoics practiced was called the View From Above: If you’re feeling stressed by some niggling annoyances, project your imagination into space and imagine the vastness of the universe. From that cosmic perspective, the annoyance doesn’t seem that important anymore – you’ve made a molehill out of a mountain.

Another technique the Stoics used (along with Buddhists and Epicureans) was bringing their attention back to the present moment, if they felt they were worrying too much about the future or ruminating over the past. Seneca told a friend: “What’s the point of dragging up sufferings that are over, of being miserable now because you were miserable then?”

5) Habits are powerful.

One thing the Stoics got, which a lot of modern philosophy (and religious studies) misses with its focus on theory, is the importance of practice, training, repetition and, in a word, habits.  Because we’re such forgetful creatures, we need to repeat ideas over and over until they become ingrained habits. It might be useful to talk about the Stoic technique of the maxim, how they’d encapsulate their ideas into brief memorizable phrases or proverbs (like “Everything in moderation” or “The best revenge is not to be like that”), which they would repeat to themselves when needed. Stoics also carried around little handbooks with some of their favorite maxims.

6) Fieldwork is vital.

Another thing the Stoics got, which modern philosophy often misses, is the idea of fieldwork. One of my favorite quotes from Epictetus is: “We might be fluent in the classroom but drag us out into practice and we’re miserably shipwrecked.” If you’re trying to improve your temper, practice not losing it. If you’re trying to rely less on comfort eating, practice eating less junk food. Seneca said: “The Stoic sees all adversity as training.” Imagine if philosophy also gave us street homework, tailor-made for the habits we’re trying to weaken or strengthen, like practicing asking a girl out, or practicing not gossiping about friends, or practicing being kind to someone every day. Imagine if people didn’t think philosophy was “just talking.”

7) Virtue is sufficient for happiness.

Stoicism wasn’t just a feel-good therapy, it was an ethics, with a specific definition of the good life: the aim of life for Stoics was living in accordance with virtue. They believed if you found the good life not in externals like wealth or power but in doing the right thing, then you’d always be happy, because doing the right thing is always in your power and never subject to the whims of fortune. A demanding philosophy, and yet also in some ways true – doing the right thing is always in our power.

8) We have ethical obligations to our community.

The Stoics pioneered the theory of cosmopolitanism – the idea that we have ethical obligations not just to our friends and family, but to our wider community, and even to the community of humanity. Sometimes our obligations might clash – between our friends and our country, or between our government and our conscience (for example, would we resist the Nazis if we grew up in 1930s Germany?). Do we really have moral obligations to people on the other side of the world? What about other species, or future generations?

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Jules Evans is a figure in the Stoicism community whom I respect. His website, Philosophy For Life, is exceptional. I’m looking forward to reading his book: Philosophy For Life and Other Dangerous Situations.

Update: I just published 10 Themes from Stoicism, which is the perfect follow up to this, and really compliments these ideas well.

On Self-Control: Do Yourself a Favor and Watch This Video

Update: 10/17/14

I’ve posted a follow-up entry to this on self-mastery that covers both self-control and self-discipline. If you’re interested in self-control and self-mastery, I highly advise you read it.

Finding this video is almost a bit uncanny because the creator literally references the very same concepts I came to know through meditation. These include the idea of our inner and our outer world, and the model of higher vs. lower consciousness. In addition to these paradigms, the video is focused on one of the core pillars of stoicism – self-control. I just can’t help but feel the forces of serendipity at work here.

And I recognize the internet has made self-help videos a dime a dozen and most of us are inundated with ‘experts’ on a daily basis – but this video is on point.

To paraphrase – I watch lot of videos – and most aren’t worth sharing. This is. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

I’ll certainly be watching more videos from this gentleman and revisiting this very often.

Edit: Wow, look at what the video’s creator has released…unreal that this is available for free. I’m tempted to set aside time everyday to watch his videos and go through his Blueprint.