We are All in Flux: The Importance of Coping with Whatever Comes Your Way

Tonight I received another superb answer to one of the questions I subscribe to on Quora.

What is the most important life lesson that you have learned up to this point?

The answer is as follows:

Life never goes as we plan. We are all in flux from the moment of birth. The most important lesson I have learned so far is that the ability to cope and handle whatever comes my way is the most important tool one has.

Coping skills are unique to each person. Each day we face the unknown. Are we ready to handle each day? When things happen such as a crisis, a death,  a heartbreak, a lost job etc…”This too shall pass”. Always keep stepping forward. Sometimes we must take baby steps to get back up, but we must take the steps.

If you look back to your younger years and remember what was so frightening to you back then, and look at yourself today, you will understand how we continue to grow, outgrow, and move forward no matter what we encounter. It is the nature of life. So be here now and love those you care about NOW. Take chances, be your own individual part of this grand universe of which we are only a little speck in the grand scheme of things. This is the most important lesson in my life and I am happy for it.


Accept that Flux is Guaranteed

An almost obvious truth, but it’s taken me 29 years to learn to accept the unalterable fact that there is no destination in life and that flux is guaranteed. In fact, one of the best things I have done for myself is to fortify my soul to face the reality of constant change. I’ve done this by giving my own inner-child the security I need to feel okay.

Hold Fast to Who You Are

As I wrote in These Require No Gifts of Circumstance, ‘inner-peace and true wellbeing are grounded in knowing who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re made of’. Everything outside of these core tenets of your identity is simply beyond your control.

For me coping is about holding dear to the things that make me “me”. The things that cannot be taken or broken. This is what keeps my inner-child secure.

For there is no doubt that you will be tested, and you will find yourself alone and traversing the bridge from night to morning as the wolves of fear clamor at your door. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Crack Up, “in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day”. So, when you are there – and there seems to be no rescue coming to your aid, then you must hold fast to who you are (this seems to bestow tangible consequence to the maxim “this to shall pass” – for you will still be who you are).

Be Stoic: Anticipate Loss

Beyond this practice of staying connected to my true-self and remaining mindful of my inner voice, Stoic philosophy has been instrumental in allowing me to cope with adversity with far greater ease today than I could muster in my younger years.

A large part of the reason this answer spoke to me deeply is that it puts adversity and flux into the greater context of life as an inherent aspect of being human. I don’t think I had ever accepted this [flux as part of living] until this year, when I began to study Stoic teachings at a much deeper level and started to view loss as an anticipatory emotion.

The ancient Stoics encouraged the practice of rehearsing and imagining loss, as Epictetus writes in Enchiridion:

This you ought to practice from morning to evening, beginning, with the smallest things and those most liable to damage, with an earthen pot, with a cup. Then proceed in this way to a tunic to a little dog, to a horse, to a small estate in land: then to yourself, to your body, to the parts of your body, to your brothers. Look all round and throw these things from you. Purge your opinions so that nothing cleave to you of the things which are not your own, that nothing grow to you, that nothing give you pain when it is torn from you; and say, while you are daily exercising yourself as you do there, not that you are philosophizing, for this is an arrogant expression, but that you are presenting an assertion of freedom: for this is really freedom.

See Misfortunes as Mere Setbacks Rather Than Abject Failures

I think previous to this practice [of anticipating loss] I was denying flux as a base aspect of life; as a result of denying adversity as an inevitable facet of being alive, I naturally viewed my misfortunes as abject failures rather than normal setbacks. My losses up until recently in my life had broken me numerous times.

Understand That The Majority of Suffering is Self-Imposed

I think I almost felt as if I was karmically persecuted at some level; just an unfortunate wretch, bound to go through long spells of suffering. But now I sigh, knowing the suffering was largely self-imposed (Thank you Stoicism). For I know now that I will be okay no matter what, and I no longer hold up my worst days against my best. Instead, as the answer’s author advises, I focus on being here now and loving those I care about NOW – and I am capable of doing this because I have learned how to (effectively) cope with whatever comes my way.

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For You’re One of The Lucky Ones

Note: The original Song and video are great as well, but I find this remix slightly less melancholy.

Sometimes I don’t think it’s fair –
But I smile,
Because life is good to me

You might think this notion silly,
And for a time, I did too
But trust me –

You see, I’ve been in love twice
And provided I go on living,
I believe it will be thrice

And that’s alright by me, for life is quite sweet
Because I can fuck everything up
And still grab victory from the jaws of defeat

So I look back lovingly on rainy drives and sunny days in parks
Yet I look ahead now – and I know,
There’s always light after dark

And to the heart long-hurting for a love whose time has passed
I verily tell thee:
Unclench your wrectched grasp
Love only that which is fated for you,
And once you release the rest
You will begin anew

Yes – you will live again with an open heart
But for this to happen,
You must accept the gift of a new start
And please, don’t think this advice generic or naive
It’s the declaration of my twenties, from the wisdom of it’s eve

Because back then,
You never thought she would leave
But now you see
You’ve been given the gift of a reprieve

So survey all you have,
And go create all you need
For you will love, and you will be loved again
And you will have to let go of it all, again and again
And this is life
So live with head and hopes held high
For you’re one of the lucky ones

###

Edit: As a poet I’m fairly transparent, and I think it’s safe to say this will be my final poem on relationships for some time as it caps a series of poems I have written during and after a breakup. Heartache is certainly fertile ground for any artist – but there is more to life than relationships, and I think I’ve tilled the soil well.

I’m very thankful to have come out of love and loss a better man for having been through it. There were times I never would have imagined that could be possible. And I’m sure I owe a lot of my healing to the poems themselves, and it’s my very hope that they help heal something within you, my dear reader. Love and light – love, and light.

Applying The Rule of 3: Is it true? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?

I enjoy subscribing to certain questions on Quora.

Today I received an email with a particularly good answer to the question: What is the best advice your father ever gave you?

The answer I received is as follows:

My father told me to follow the rule of 3 in life.
Some of the examples are:

If you want to buy something, ask yourself 3 questions:

    Is it necessary?
    Do I need it right now?
    Is it worth its price?

If answer to all of this is yes then only buy it.

Before you speak anything, ask yourself 3 questions:

    Is it true?
    Is it necessary?
    Is it kind?

If the answer to all of this is yes then only speak.
 
This has helped me tremendously in my life because I can apply this method to almost everything in my life.


Of course, this is the kind of thing we see posted on social media almost daily – with a myriad of inaccurate sources, and as such, it can be easy to let it go as unnoticed as any of the dozen-or-so quotes you may encounter on a daily basis.

However, what makes this wonderful is that it’s not just a quote, but a paradigm; a lens via which we can look through to gain better clarity before we act.

How many times have we spoken without certainty that something is necessary, true, or kind?

How many times have we purchased something that wasn’t necessary, that we didn’t need right then, or that wasn’t worth the price?

By applying the “rule of 3”, as the answer calls it, we have a simple framework for making better decisions.

Interestingly, upon Googling the quote, it turns out it originates from a Victorian book of poems called “Miscellaneous Poems,” published in 1872 (Source: FakeBuddahQuotes.com). The poem is written by Mary Ann Pietzker and is aptly titled “Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?

“Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?

Oh! Stay, dear child, one moment stay,
Before a word you speak,
That can do harm in any way
To the poor, or to the weak;
And never say of any one
What you’d not have said of you,
Ere you ask yourself the question,
“Is the accusation true?”

And if ’tis true, for I suppose
You would not tell a lie;
Before the failings you expose
Of friend or enemy:
Yet even then be careful, very;
Pause and your words well weigh,
And ask it it be necessary,
What you’re about to say.

And should it necessary be,
At least you deem it so,
Yet speak not unadvisedly
Of friend or even foe,
Till in your secret soul you seek
For some excuse to find;
And ere the thoughtless word you speak,
Ask yourself, “Is it kind?”

When you have ask’d these questions three—
True,—Necessary,—Kind,—
Ask’d them in all sincerity,
I think that you will find,
It is not hardship to obey
The command of our Blessed Lord,—
No ill of any man to say;
No, not a single word.

May the Rule of 3 serve you well my dear reader – and perhaps as the gentleman’s father had taught him to apply a rule of 3 for purchases, you too can create and apply your own rules of 3 to help you make better decisions in your life; i.e., before you eat, ask yourself “Am I hungry?, do I need to eat something?, and is this healthy?”

This is just an example made up on the fly, and of course life isn’t always that simple, but picking up little tricks along the way like the rule of 3 can help us improve our ability to make healthy and intelligent decisions. As the answer’s author wrote: This has helped me tremendously in my life because I can apply this method to almost everything in my life.

On Choosing to Be Kind

Update: 10/31/2014

I wrote this entry while being emotionally riled, and while I feel I did an effective job of being constructive with my emotions and providing a great deal of substance to the reader, I do not feel I wrote all of this in the proper tone or from the optimal perspective.

As such, I was thankful to come across a good article this evening on the subject of good and evil, as the ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus saw it.

While I feel this doesn’t negate what I have written, I think it contributes a vital perspective to my narrative.

To quote:

“When you see people, things, and circumstances during your day, Epictetus advises us to break away from of our habit of seeing them as good or bad. Their labels of good and bad can only be attached by our judgment, not from who or what they truly are. They are simply part of nature and the world we all work within.”

Even from one who reviles us?’
Why, what good does the athlete get from the man who wrestles with him? The greatest. So my reviler helps to train me for the contest: he trains me to be patient, dispassionate, gentle. You deny it? You admit that the man who grips my neck and gets my loins and shoulders into order does me good, and the trainer does well to bid me ‘lift the pestle with both hands’, and the more severe he is, the more good do I get: and are you going to tell me that he who trains me to be free from anger does me no good? That means that you do not know how to get any good from humankind.” – Epictetus.

“Here, Epictetus isn’t only saying problems aren’t bad but that they can be beneficial! If this still doesn’t make sense to you, then consider the weightlifting room at your local gym. Some people spend hours using those heavy weights in various positions and movements. In fact, they usually pay membership dues just for the privilege. They view these weights as a good. However, if someone has a job that requires he lifts boxes with similar weights as found in our gym example, would he think lifting those boxes is a good? Probably not. He certainly wouldn’t pay membership dues for the privilege. Instead, he expects to be compensated. So there you have two similar activities that are viewed by people as different because their interpretations are different, not the activities themselves.”

“Therefore, next time we run into someone angry or face a hopeless situation, we must remember what Epictetus has taught us today.”

This reinforces the themes of Stoicism and the value of adversity that were originally included initially within this entry, but I wanted to add this update as I think it places greater focus on these perspectives, which can greatly lighten the burden on our soul. All in all, not my favorite entry because of the emotionally fueled place it came from, but I’m happier with it after the addition of this update. For all intents and purposes I must remind myself that ‘this is a blog’, and as such I am allowed to make mistakes in conveying my ideas. – LB


I want to make this a short entry because it’s not worth many words, but it’s worth saying.

Edit: this is not a short entry, but it’s very much worth reading. Enjoy.

There are shitty people in the world.

As much as I have clung to the denial of this truth in my unconquerable lust for idealism, I can no longer deny this as a basic tenet of life – some people just fucking suck. And I don’t mean this in the way of people letting you down, sure that happens; however, what I’m talking about is the people who are well over the black and white line of decency on the spectrum of humanity.

I’m talking about people who physically threaten others, people who project their ugliness onto others where they inherently sense vulnerability, and people who just don’t give one iota of fucks about you and would probably enjoy whatever harm would come to you. People who in fact make a concerted effort to perpetuate whatever kind of harm or injury they might inflict on you – verbal, emotional, physical, or psychic.

If you read me you know that I’m a positive person. If you know me, you know this. But there’s no use in pretending these people don’t exist. We’ve all encountered them – within and beyond our circle of friends.

These are the bullies in life – male and female, straight and gay, of all races and classes. These are the people who wish others ill will – and whether they gain pleasure from it I cannot say, but they certainly aren’t averse to your suffering and at the very least they are indifferent to it.

And what of these less than great individuals – how do we go about living in a world where we have to share the same beautiful air with these absolute jerks?

I’ve never really asked myself this.

Up until now I suppose I’ve reacted as child might when confronted with someone who is just plain nasty; I’ve felt a mixture of equal parts hurt and shock. A kind of how on earth? feeling.

But I’m tired of it. I’m tired of being surprised by the ugly side of humanity, and in my twenty-nine years I’ve seen my fair share of it. As I once heard someone quip: “If you ever meet someone who tells you they haven’t been abused, then you are talking to a goddamned liar”. We’ve all been subject to abuse; we’ve all been treated far worse than we deserve -whether we know it or not, but it’s not difficult to single out instances in our lives where another has denied us our humanity, our dignity. This is a part of life. As is said in Rocky IV, life ain’t all sunshine and roses; the world is a very mean and nasty place.

Regardless of the inevitability of this, I’ve always done my best to meet incredulous persons with compassion. After all, we have all acted poorly; we’ve all been guilty of being shitty at one time or another and we all carry the scars of living. But at the same time, some of us don’t put our poison into others – instead, we use coping mechanisms and we integrate our experiences into our interpersonal behavioral schemas in a manner that is basically benevolent towards others.

So, what separates those who internalize their pain and transfigure it into something livable from the people who externalize it in a manner that makes life less livable?

I suppose compassion has a lot to do with it. But one of the little known things about compassion, and one of the things that makes compassion so interesting, is that compassion for the self is not relative to the amount of compassion we have for others. This is grounded in university research (Kristin Neff PHD).

The lack of correlation between compassion for the self and others is very counter-intuitive at a certain level – but once you examine this it makes perfect sense: some people possess ample compassion for others, yet have very little for themselves, yet others have ample compassion for themselves, yet they have very little compassion for others.

Frankly I’m slightly envious of those in the latter category. Not that I think it’s admirable to have less compassion for others than for yourself, but it’s certainly rational and pragmatic to a degree. I’ve lived my life with a deep degree of compassion and empathy for others. And as anyone in my shoes knows, there is a thin line between compassion for others and being an absolute doormat.

Being compassionate has caused me to remain attached to people long after I should have let go. Being compassionate has made me love people who could care less about what city I live in today. Being compassionate has made me very naive in many ways. It’s difficult to look back on this facet of myself and feel like this has been a strength of mine – but it’s been a virtue nonetheless. It’s made me a better person. It’s helped me stay connected to my innocence. It’s helped me stay optimistic and openhearted. It’s helped me be forgiving of others, but the downside is that I have always assumed I was due the same forgiveness I would give another.

And this is where life starts to feel unfair – when you feel like the world’s not nearly as kind to you as you are to it.

And so, at 29, here I am – and as I write this I am feeling like there are far too many rough edges and sharp corners in the world.

Continue reading “On Choosing to Be Kind”

Poetry: The Asker and The Giver

When you numb
You don’t heal the pain
You merely go beneath the surface
Where you can’t feel the rain

But what you really need,
Is just the safety to breathe –
The security to be yourself
– Beautiful and free

See yourself as you wish to be
And be yourself as you wish to be
Let go of the present – it’s soon to be the past
Claim what is yours, it’s within your grasp

You can receive what you wish
But you first must ask
Then it is yours –
Go complete the task

You are the giver and the receiver
The wisher and the believer
So believe believe believe,
And receive receive receive

But you must act
That is all you must do
Carefully choose your plans,
Then dutifully follow through

For you can be, do, and have anything,
But no one can do it for you –
Just as you cannot do this for someone else
So do it for happiness
Do it for wealth

The world is yours
And everything in it
So if you’re in the game of life,
Be in it to win it

You can be anything
Who are you?
What are you commanding?
By what do you do?

Create value –
Then deliver
And this is how you are to be
Both the asker and the giver

Meditations Session Six: The Immortal Soul, Embracing the Tribe, and This Thing Called Life

In accordance with my Meditations, and in the spirit of my original Transcendental Realizations, I dove deep into my mind the other night on a journey of loving self discovery.

My intention with this spiritual and meditative journey was to go deep within my psyche and do some healing to remove the subconscious barriers standing between me and my desires. Two nights before this I dreamt that I cut open a small spiritual statue I own and in my dream I replaced the head of the statue with the outstretched open-palmed hand, and the very night after this journey I dreampt I was climbing high up a mature tree and pulling down the old, dry branches – so, if the inherent symbolism of my dreams is any indication then I think it’s safe to say I did progress greatly in the desired direction of my intentions.

So after a beautiful day spent at the beach with my father, and an evening spent journaling and eating frozen yogurt, I am seated here tonight listening to good music and transcribing my notes verbatim from this meditation.

The first set of notes were taken first thing in the morning after spending the night meditating with candles and music. The next were written in my journal in the park near my house after waking from a deep slumber.

The Immortal Soul

  • To became one with the soul is to meet your loneliness, to feel oneness with the sadness of life, to have seen the full spectrum of being human
  • To understand the human experience is to innately feel it
  • To transcend a human experience is to have one
  • It’s all oneness – as it is, with my lot as a man
  • To be imperfect is perfect
  • The point of anxiety is no anxiety
  • Once anxiety has given you something abandon it

Embracing Your Tribe (Your Humanity)

  • A part of every human desires death (Freud?), but it’s escape they want
  • We are all our fathers
  • There’s no escaping your tribe (being human)
  • Forgiving your tribe (and yourself) requires embracing all of it – because you’ve seen it (good and bad)
  • There is no forgiving yourself for what you didn’t do
  • Don’t hate yourself for being a good guy
  • Being human is messy

This Thing Called Life

  • Everything’s already happened before in the universe’s eyes
  • It’s a painting, not a masterpiece [life]
  • No meaning will make sense of it
  • No writing can encapsulate it
  • It’s what is
  • Life’s fair for neither sex
  • But you’ve got to claim a seat at the table to eat
  • There is such a thing as evolutionary consciousness
  • Suffering is shared amongst humanity
  • It’s not your job to suffer for all of humanity
  • Make right of your life
  • Make it yours entirely
  • Life is a romance
  • And a comedy
  • Don’t try and relive anyone else’s coming of age
  • You can’t win it because it never ends
  • There’s no arrival point in life
  • You are here
  • Attitude and outlook is everything
  • Life is an evolutionary process
  • Your life can only be as good as you make it
  • Will Smith gets it (see end of post)
  • Rise up. Rise above.
  • No one can deny you your frame
  • Perception is everything

From my journal

  • Really saw my situation in a much needed light. Many realizational facets of it but mainly a sense of my share of being a human being.
  • And a deep sense that no one can deny what you bring into consciousness.
  • And consciousness is reality and our perception dictates what we experience.
  • No one can deny you your frame.
  • – redacted re: childhood shame, and learned inner programming about self-worth –
  • I feel like last night I reconnected with both my innocence and an ancient part of me – my ancient masculine
  • But facing the ancient masculine, and your masculine sexuality is about owning your lot as a man. To take what you’ve been given in life and (use that energy to) make it better.
  • Anyway, I’m tired of over-analyzing, over-thinking – I need to acknowledge the anxious insecurity of that.
  • I’m ready to live. No one big answer is going to give me the ticket to that.
  • I’ve got to live. My life is my life. My name is my name.
  • I don’t want to live through the lens of sad songs.
  • I want to change the tone of my life from the (American) narrative of “I’m a hardworking man with a good heart, just trying to make it” – to “I’m Lawrence Black, cut from the same cloth as the greats, and I am an openhearted soul-rebel and I am thriving!”
  • Last night was facing the shame of the wild man and accepting that life is facing the shame but seeing that it is false – it’s a part of life, of being human to feel that [shame], but part of being human is also seeing that the greatness exists as well.

Bonus: Get Jiggy With Serious Truth


And This is What Love is

One of the things that continually bolsters my spirituality is the way synchronicity and serendipity have a way of bringing the right signs, messages, people, and lessons into my life.

And what’s really shown me this is the fact that I went through a kind of dark night of the soul over the past couple years where these things simply did not happen, because I didn’t believe in anything except science; however, once the spiritual poles in my life reversed from zemblanity to serendipity – voila’ – the magic came back.

As I said to Bunny S via text tonight, I believe in God more than I believe in love – to which she replied, you used to be the opposite. And she is probably right.

Whichever the case my be, I maintain enough fluidity in my beliefs to account for other, often more mature perspectives. After all – perspective is just a filter, and it would be hubris to think that my outlook at 29 is the be all end all, and after all, I’m a long way from being the sage grandfather I am destined to be.

So tonight when I was at my local Whole Foods and I found myself in a chance conversation with a woman who was open and willing to share her perspective with me, I made sure to listen to what she had to say.

And she told me about how as you get older and the people you love start dying it changes you forever – how losing those you love – mom and dad included – changes you; how loss is a part of living and getting older, and how you don’t experience this when you are young, and in a sense your outlook on life is unspoiled by the loss you have yet to face in the passing of relationships and the passage of loved ones.

And in turn I told her about the Grant Study, and how after 75 years and twenty million dollars they concluded that happiness was love, full stop and that the other pillar of happiness [besides finding love] was finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.

And that’s really difficult to do in the face of loss.

But she [the woman at whole foods] was right: loss is an inherent aspect of life – in every facet of nature, it’s simply the way things work.

As one of my favorite quotes from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button states: “You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You can swear and curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go.”

And that’s just innately difficult [letting go]. We all live in denial of the inevitable. So – to look back on a relationship and think that the ending itself or the absence of someone you once loved from your life today is somehow unfair is simply childish. And this is what naivete is. It’s not naive to believe in love; it’s naive to believe that you will bask in it’s richness forever.

Love is a holiday. It’s Thanksgiving spent with your favorite people. It’s the safety of Christmas eve. But it’s also understanding that you can’t stop this train.

It’s not naive to believe in love; it’s naive to believe that you will bask in it’s richness forever. Love is a holiday. It’s Thanksgiving spent with your favorite people. It’s the safety of Christmas eve. But it’s also understanding that you can’t stop this train.

And as much as you want to get off and go home again, you can’t,

And this is really what love is. It’s holding on tightly to what you have to let go of. But it’s also knowing you will have to let go.

And it’s knowing that home is where the heart is, but it’s also knowing that your heart is the only home you can ever truly count on being able to return to – every other home is just a resting place for your heart, someone special to share to with.

And whomever you have to share it with now – friends, family, whoever is there in your life today – these are the people that matter. Hold them dear, for they will be gone tomorrow.

But of course, we all feel like ‘You don’t know how it feels to be me’. And this is what love is; because we don’t [know how it feels to be you] – but we all have to let go.

 P.S. I’m reminded of a philosophical exercise where a professor holds up a glass of water before his class and asks the students (a very bright bunch) what the glass of water weighs. Of course, the answers are rapid and forthcoming – “8 ounces!”, “10 ounces!” – but the professor elucidates: the weight of the glass of water is relative to how long you hold onto it; hold it for a minute and you will feel the weight of it (say 10 ounces), but try to hold it for hours or days and it will become unbearable. And this is why we have to let go of things – because their weight becomes unbearable in time.

 And this is why we have to let go of things – because their weight becomes unbearable in time.

Edit: I want to clarify that this outlook on love here is in no way meant to say that you can’t spend the rest of your life with someone you love. I’m 29, and as such, I understand that your twenties are often a very rich burial ground for relationships and first loves, but there is no one rule. And your exes are most likely exes for a reason. Just don’t give up on what you deserve, and hold tighter to what you find next knowing that you have to let go of it all regardless. But if you are lucky enough to find real love – someone who truly loves you and stays by your side through thick and thin – and there will be thick and thin – then hold onto that person, because that’s as good as it gets.

Motivate Daily

Zig Ziglar once said that bathing doesn’t last, and neither does motivation, that’s why we recommend it daily.

If you’re reading this, the universe has an important message for you – MOTIVATE DAILY.

I’m not one of those positive thinking addicts – I know there’s more to it; it’s not just about thinking positive, but you MUST maintain a chosen mindset from the outset of your day if you want to be successful and in control of your life. If you do not choose your mindset for the day, the day will choose your mindset for you.

Do yourself a favor, watch one or both the following videos.


Then watch another motivational video each day for the next month. See what happens. It’s as important as bathing – think of it as part of maintaining your mental hygiene.

I’m not just saying this to pat you on the ass. This is an act of self-care that you owe yourself; these are the kind of things you owe your mind and your soul on a daily basis. I’m just here to remind you. So, motivate daily; seriously, what do you have to lose?

Some Thoughts on Writing, Hiding Behind Poems, and a Poem on Modern Love

At the end of this entry is poem I worked on last night and today, and as the poem’s opening line states, it was not an easy poem – but beyond that I don’t I think it’s a particularly great poem; however, there is some substance there; although, it certainly lacks a consistent tone or style – but despite that, there are lines I really like – but the poem as a whole doesn’t quite achieve the proper balance of style and substance.

But it’s a poem I had to write, because it encapsulates a feeling that’s been turning over in my soul lately, and as I’ve admitted before, poets only write poetry when they are upset – and often I use poetry as a medium for my writing because in a poem I can say things that I don’t feel safe to admit in prose, because I feel like a poem is a safe place to bare your soul for a couple of minutes while the rest of the world pays no attention. 

Poetry just feels overall much less declarative than prose to me, and perhaps it’s because poetry masks egocentricity under the guise of art, or at least it gives the reader the impression that the feelings being communicated are more important than the ideas beneath them.

Perhaps the very nature of poetry as a creative medium, rather than a communicative one, allows for greater empathy toward the writer because it bares some soul and some vulnerability that isn’t obvious in an essay or article format. There’s some inherent asking of forgiveness from the reader that a poet asks simply in sharing his poetry, as if to say – this is a part of me that I fashioned into verse to help myself make sense of this piece of my life – and I think others might profit something from it, either way – here it is, I hope you enjoy it.

Whereas, the writer who takes the liberties and freedom of prose seems more self-important, as if he is saying, I’ve written something here that reveals my own (worthy) ideas about this topic, which the title of is but a tiny promise to you [the reader] that what I have written will enable you to understand this subject much better than you previously did.

And of course the influence of advertising and the impact of the internet as a whole has greatly diluted the perceived value of the written word in the eyes of readers. Content farms and linkbait factories are driven by data with the singular mission of aggregating more eyeballs; clicks and impressions lead to dollars, so even once great publications like Esquire magazine have started pumping out 5-10 clicky titles a day in an effort to win eyeballs online.

Note: If you see any ads here on 7Saturdays it’s because I choose to host this for free on wordpress.com so that this content will remain online long after my death, so any ad revenue from this goes straight to the awesome folks at wordpress. And as an additional aside, it is possible to purchase a yearly upgrade to remove the ads completely.

Being that I’m driven only by my own love for the craft rather than the desire for revenue, I’ve had the wonderful freedom of being able to write whatever I want, and I’ve always written what I felt I needed to write for my own soul – and as such, this blog has been a living record of my inner world, rather than a tool for me to progress within the outer world; however, as I grow older and my writing becomes more paramount to my existence, my desire to write for the benefit of others is becoming equal in importance to my desire to write for my own pleasure.

So what does this mean?

Well, I want to continue writing here, but I want to be more brave about it. Meaning, if I feel something like ‘Hey, I think it’s really messed up that we as a society think it’s normal to discard our ex lovers with zero regard for their wellbeing’ then I want to write about it, rather than burying those feelings in a poem – if in fact I think that prose will allow me to do a better job of conveying what I am trying to say.

By my own admission I’m a much better wordsmith given the freedom to write without rhythm or rhyme, which isn’t to say that I haven’t written some poems I think are great and are perfectly communicated in verse, but as an artist and as a human being I want to evolve and grow beyond the confines of my comfort zone. So perhaps it’s time I start writing as bravely in prose as I have in poetry; although, that’s a scary thought.

So, expect more color here. I’ll still be writing on psychology and philosophy as those are passions of mine, but I think I need to be as brave in my writing as I have been in the other areas of my life.

Tonight I had gone to the store and assumed I would come home and after dinner I would work on this poem and complete it, but as I walked around the aisles of the store it dawned on me that I was using poetic verse as a protective facade to wrap up raw feelings in a pretty package, and maybe I was afraid of admitting these things outright.

So I came home and wrote the above to preface the ugly version of this poem. It’s ugly because it’s not really finished, but I don’t think it could be any other way. It’s the way I feel, and it’s not pretty, but it’s real.

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I’m Not Built Like That / That’s Just The Way it is

This poem isn’t easy
But I’ve got words to say

She’s found eternal sunshine –
Apparently, self-preservation means disowning love without reservations
And that’s just the way it is

Though we parted long ago,
A part of me knows our love is a big part of all I’ll ever know
And I wasn’t built for letting go –
So I think it’s time I let the world know –

This is me
At twenty-nine,
On a chaise –
Alone and alone

Once upon a time I was less angry – my heart was less complex
You see –
I grieve for things that were once dreams,
So don’t think I can just look for what’s next

It’s obvious I wasn’t made for modern romance
Giving love then taking it back,
Turning apart to never look back
Simply because society says ‘the past is the past’

So we spend a thousand nights together and then say,
‘sorry I don’t feel that same way’

You see,
The three words I gave thee were a gift – not a loan
And in my hand still exists a place for yours that feels like home
I feel it now
But hope sinks as I write this poem –
Because inside I know
Nothing can help,
Not even making these feelings known

You see,
She doesn’t love me like that:
“We’re broken up”
“You need to move on”
“This isn’t normal”
And –
“Please – just leave me alone”

Icy, frigid, freezing Arctic heart –
I never saw your polar nature on warm, long afternoons in the park
But I’m still here and I’m haunted by the burns from that once bright spark

You see,
I will die loving you
And maybe they’ll say I was born broken from the start,
That I should have just moved on and forgotten,
Made a brand new start
But they’ll never know
Because they don’t have my heart

Still am and always will be the goodhearted idealist,
But the truth is,
I really don’t want to feel this
So I’m asking myself:

How many more times can I survive the character assassination of a breakup?
How many more cherished remembrances of the past am I cast off, jettison, and set adrift?

Each time I come across one it feels bittersweet like finding a board-game-piece beneath the family sofa on moving day –
You stare at it for a moment and look back on a dear memory as you’re served a painful reminder of just how sad it is to say that you don’t know that person today

That’s the pain of knowing you can never go back to that place
And if you do return,
It will be alone –
Face it –
You have to face the past on your own –

I have a hard time accepting accepting
To know that certain pieces of me will be marooned in my own skull for eternity
You see – there are no other houses for these memories – just mine and her mind
And it pains me to know they will never come back home with us again –
But somehow – she doesn’t seem to mind

And I both admire and detest her for that
But I could never look back solely in anger –
I’m just not built like that

I could never disown someone I loved
No matter what

You see,
Though my heart is rich and heavy with the patina of grief and pain –
I just don’t know how much more loving it can actually sustain

I can’t bear the weight of it all –
I fear that the sound of the echoes will grow too loud and my heart will feel too small
I can’t carry any more torches in the night
So if you love me don’t expect me to be your white knight

I’m not built like that anymore

I can’t go to that place without facing the truth,
The truth that the wrong love could be the end of me
And maybe it’s time to decide in advance that the next love doesn’t deserve all of me
Will she even deserve the real me?

Because the real me is offering a forever home
And the real me would go into battle to return to that place we used to know
But there is one thing I know

You see,
It’s time to hold my cards close,
And to be the king of my own heart
And if I give my love again, it will be the final start

I loved you once
I love you still
My love is real
My love is real

And that’s just the way it is

Journey to Self‑Mastery: From Self‑Control to Self‑Discipline

I posted a previous – albeit brief entry on the importance of self-control about a month ago, and today I want to talk about it again, but within a larger context.

I want to tell you about my journey to self-mastery, but first let me give you some of the key quotes from the video on self-control, which served as the centerpiece of the aforementioned entry.

On Self-Control (by Leo Gura of Actualized.org)

“When you master your own psychology it becomes easier to influence the world, otherwise the world is always influencing you. “

“Developing self-control, self-discipline is not easy and this is why most people do not do it and why most people’s lives are shit, because they do not take the proper steps to develop self-control and that’s because there is emotional labor involved – there is struggle involved with building self-control.”

“Self-control is difficult to develop and the way to develop it is through work. You’re looking for opportunities to improve yourself, to grow. And what happens is that you start to build these additional layers – and those build extra self-control into you. And you start to notice that you get more awareness, and more ability to control your feelings, more ability to control your emotions, more ability to control your behaviors, more ability to persist in spite of the fear, to have courage, more ability to learn, more ability to introspect, to be very honest with yourself – and this is a great thing, and it just kind of snowballs and you start to build more and more self-control. On the other hand – if you’re not being undisciplined, if you’re not observing the practices and you’re not doing the things that you need to be doing in life – then what happens is you kind of have the reverse process. Your brain turns to mush, your Prefrontal Cortex becomes weak and you are not able to execute on the things that your higher-self wants to execute on, and so what happens is that your lower-self takes control over your higher self – and that is a very bad place to be in, in life, because even though that lower-self got what it wants, it got comfort, it feels good – that higher-self is still there, it’s not dead, and it wants you to be living to your full potential, and when you’re not living to your full potential you feel guilty, you feel horrible – you feel like your soul has been drained. And that’s one of the worst feelings in life.”

So what are some of the things you can do to build self-control?

One – Disciplined Practice:

“Have disciplined practices. That means that you’re getting up at a certain time in the morning when you want to be getting up. That means if you the intention to brush and floss twice a day – do that. If you have intentions to meditate – do that. If you have intentions to journal – do that. If you have intentions to show up on time – do that. If you have intentions of eating healthy – do that.  If you have intentions of going to the gym – do that, and be very disciplined and consistent about it. That practice – with whatever area of your life you point it in – if you’re just disciplined and you’re executing consistently, that trains your brain. It requires the build up of Prefrontal Cortex just to do it. It’s like going to the gym and pumping your biceps, it builds them up – that’s what it does to your brain. So, have disciplined practices and stay on top of those. That’s the bottom-line, quickest way to build self-control. Follow through on your disciplined practices – set a few new ones every once in a while, and build those up into habits.”

Unhook from Media and Stimulation:

“You are overstimulated right now; most of you are overstimulated with television, radio, gossip from your friends, advertising, negative influences from family, from friends – all over the place. You’re overstimulated by it. You need to unhook yourself from it. Get back to your source. Spend some time by yourself in solitude; think about things. Be introspective. Raise your level of consciousness. When you do this you start to develop a level of self-control that’s just amazing. You cannot have self-control when you’re plugged in – when your plugged into the grid, because what happens is your mind becomes a lazy slug and it plugs into the grid and what you’re looking for is that cheap source of energy that you can just plug into. You just want to plug into that TV and let go. You just want to plug into that chocolate ice cream and just let go. You want to plug into that relationship – that comfortable relationship and just let go. And you want to plug into sitting there on the internet all day and browsing all day, and browsing Facebook, and chatting with your friends, and gossiping about the latest celebrity news. You’re just plugging in – you’re letting your brain to to mush. How can you have self-control when you do that – you can’t. You got to snip that stuff off – cut it all off – spend some time thinking, being alone, introspecting, coming up with goals,, coming up with visions, coming up with ideas for what you want to accomplish in your life. That is how you get your self-control back.”

Note: Definitely check out the videos from Leo at Actualized.org

My Personal Journey with Self-Control

In the past month, since publishing the initial entry on self-control, I have fully heeded the above wisdom. The effects of this have compounded upon the already significant changes I have made in my life this year.

Just in the last half of this year I have completely given up all:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Caffeine
  • Sweets and processed / junk food
  • Pornography and self-pleasure (a topic deserving of it’s own entry – and one that has nothing to do with morality).
  • All news websites
  • All entertainment websites and purposeless internet surfing
  • Negative / Unhealthy relationships

Each of these things has required a considerable measure of emotional labor, but I can proudly say that I have exercised complete and total self-control.

And what of these changes – how has my wellbeing been impacted as a result of exercising self-control in these areas of my life?

Well, I could write at length about this but I’ll save that for a future date as there’s yet a considerable amount of benefits to reap and still a great amount of change at work, but I’ll say the following:

Beyond looking better (My bodyfat is dropping to BAWSE levels) and feeling better (my confidence is at an all time high), the greatest thing is that my self-awareness is eons above what it once was. I’ve been able to go within my psyche and perform the kind of deep self-work that produces the rare type of quantum change available once – maybe twice within a lifetime. This has also opened the doors within my soul for a spiritual awakening, which I am massively grateful for. And my identity as a practicing Stoic has benefited immensely, and of course, my mindfulness, and meditation practices have blossomed through this as well.

But simply the increase in self-awareness alone is in itself reward enough to suffice as motivation for me to continue on this path indefinitely. It’s an amazing feeling to be deeply connected to your inner intuition and to experience the alignment of the heart and the mind that this brings. This deepening and awakening of my self-awareness has given me the gift of being able to live from my highest truth – spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, professionally, intellectually – I’ve given myself the gift of stepping into my highest self.

No More Palliatives

But why? How can self-control be this transformative? Well – the italicized notes in the beginning of this entry do an excellent job of shedding light onto this – but in addition to that, I have come to see that these things were my way of numbing myself to who I am and how I really felt. When you become aware of all the things you are plugging into, and you stop plugging into them, you start to see that they were merely a palliative.

palliative

Those palliatives we habituate ourselves to indulging in become automated responses to any disturbances in our mental equilibrium. So we become in a sense very amateur neuropharmacologists, doling out the brain chemicals we feel we need to feel okay. And as a result our mental and emotional awareness is never fully allowed to properly achieve a natural state of homeostasis.

I can’t tell you how many times over the past few years I simply wished I could cry – but I couldn’t; although, I intuitively knew I needed to. That’s no longer the case now that I am emotionally and mentally 100% organic. Music moves me more, I connect more deeply to others, I laugh more, I cry when I need to cry, I dance more, and I feel innocent – like a child.

And I’m centered and I’m grounded; my moods are linear and I am more resilient than I have ever been. And on the rare occasion I do get angry, I can sense just how much that anger has lowered my self-awareness, and it’s just gotten to the point that it’s not even worth it for me to get angry anymore. And I no longer get depressed. Period. Additionally my ADHD has pretty much disappeared. Perhaps my brain has learned that no amount of pain, suffering, discontent, or boredom will earn it the synthetic sources of Dopamine it once was addicted to, and so these things no longer serve a purpose in my life. It’s as if my emotions have gone from existential to experiential – meaning, I am no longer angry – I’m just experiencing anger.

Continue reading “Journey to Self‑Mastery: From Self‑Control to Self‑Discipline”

These Require No Gifts of Circumstance

Inner peace – true wellbeing,
Is neither the feeling of thirst satisfied – nor satisfaction

It’s not the pursuit of desire,
Nor the attainment of what isn’t,
Nor the possession of what is

It’s merely the state of non-comparison:
To past or present,
To what you have had,
Or do not have,
Or to what anyone else may have

It’s neither found in detachment nor attachment;
But rather, it’s grounded in the knowing:
Who you are,
What you believe in,
And what you’re made of

These require no gifts of circumstance

Ground yourself and your happiness in these and you will be unshakable, unbendable, and unbroken

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Note: This was adapted from this evening’s journal entry and is designed to remind you that it’s not the seeking or even the pleasure of attainment that will ever please you.

It’s Time to Climb Down off the Black Rock and Get Comfortable

I’ve been meditating on the same rocky outcrop each morning for the past month. Just north of this outcrop sits a tall lava-rock that lies out on a point, and – low tide permitting – I’ve been climbing up on top of it in the evenings and sitting there for sunset meditations.

These two spots have been cherished elements of my meditation practice and I’ve had beautiful experiences on each; however, I’ve abruptly stopped using both.

Why?

Something happened; I just came to the realization that I was this guy (albeit much better posture, and my rock is a lot cooler).

meditate

And what I mean when I say ‘I came to the realization that I was this guy’ is that I noticed my ego creeping in…

Pretty girls jogging by on the beach, and I felt cool up on my black rock. Shirtless, and contemplative – dare I say sexy…

And that’s cool, I mean – if you are living a life where meditation is more important than happy hour, and you are in prime physical shape, and you are aggrandizing yourself then you deserve to feel good about it, sure. You’re fostering a positive and healthy self-image, and that’s great.

But, what happens when those feelings of pride creep up into your meditation (or yoga) practice?

Suddenly you lose the state of flow. You lose your self-awareness of “I am” in exchange for self-conscious feelings of “These people think I am”. And that’s antithetical to meditation, that’s counterproductive to the objective of transcending the self.

So, in that moment (specifically the one where I noticed myself consciously appraising myself via the imagined approval of others – aka ‘that guy looks cool’ = “I look cool up here”), I suddenly realized sitting high on a rock where I looked the part of mr. meditative beau was not authentically me.

It was not serving my spiritual goals to be the guy on the black rock – as much as I love the song.

And don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-ego as some spiritual teachers would advocate (i.e., Eckhardt Tolle). I think confidence is an aspect of the soul. The soul is supposed to be unique and confident. The soul is inherently a bit of a rebel and a bad ass; soul is sexy.

But confidence is not ego. Confidence is a product of internal validation, and ego is a product of external validation. Ego is the you that your inner child projects in an effort to gain approval from others. So, up on the black rock, in that moment I sensed the insecure inner child within me feeling quite chuffed with himself – and I didn’t like that, because I don’t want my inner child using the ego to feel good.

So, in my noticing of an attractive female eyeing me, I was naturally taken into a state of ego, and it’s impossible to be fully present when you are experiencing yourself through that state, because it’s externally based. So if you’re meditating or doing yoga and ego creeps in, you lose your sense of internal orientation – you start judging yourself.

Confidence is a product of internal validation, and ego is a product of external validation.

I’m not into judging myself; I’m not 24 anymore. I’m 29 and I’m coming into my mature male masculine energy. As a result I’m not as interested as I once was in bringing that kind of attention to myself – particularly not while I’m trying to meditate on the internal world, which requires no external knowing. The inner world of meditation is about connecting to your inner intuition. It’s about connecting and listening to the inner voice within you that tells you to climb down from the black rock and go sit on the comfort of the sand.

And you know what, about 25 yards south of the black rock is the greatest little meditation spot – a rounded rock shaped like a bulbous piece of modern art furniture, complete with a deep depression, which fits my cross-legged lower body almost perfectly.

So, this morning I sat there and I got into one of the deepest, most beautiful meditative states I’ve had in nature.

And my inner intuition spoke to me and told me that so many of us are always chasing pleasure as a means to alleviate our discontent, and that so few of us are fulfilled, and that we just need to take the pleasures as they come, let go of the pain, and appreciate it all. And I heard my inner voice tell me how I didn’t need to be thirsty or hungry for those states of pleasure, because I could ground myself deeply through gratitude. And I felt incredible love, and my inner voice told me that I was love, because I create love, I produce love, and I attract love. And the universe told me that others can only mirror back to us the love we have within ourselves, and that I would never have to want for love again, because it is within me, and it grows when I become it, and I am love.

And that is what it feels like to transcend.

So, ask yourself, what black rocks am I sitting on in life? Where am I participating in the pageantry of vanity?

Maybe you’ve been trying to grow your hair long because you think other people would find it attractive and that’s a black rock. Maybe you have been pursuing someone’s approval and that’s a black rock. Don’t chase the states. Don’t be hungry. Don’t seek internal peace through external things. Detach from looking and feeling cool, and you’ll be the coolest motherfucker in the world.

Climb down off the black rock and get comfortable with yourself, with life, with others, and with your relationship to the world. The possibilities awaiting you will bring you closer to the truth in your heart than you could ever imagine.

Bonus: Matt Kahn on Emotional Oneness 

I implore you to watch the video below with an open mind and an open heart. Life changing stuff.