All, Psychology, Self-Actualizing

What I Was

Preface: This has been an incredibly pivotal season of life for me, and I have been going through a time of radical self-realization. Tonight I took my blanket and candles to the shore for the supermoon blood lunar eclipse, and I wrote the following in reflection (Mainly) on the later part of my twenties. As I have certainly published TMI before, revealing my past flaws – flaws which others around me likely already saw clearly – is not something I am afraid of.

What I was:

Neurotic
Stuck in my head
Compulsive
Emotional
Depressed
Self-pitying
Unsuccessful
Irresponsible
Anxious
Uncertain
Socially undiscerning
Judgemental
Insecure
Feeling driven
Mentally passive
Unhealthy
Overly effeminate / feminine dominate
Unhealthy
Obsessed with the past
Too emotionly empathetic and vulnerable
Easily influenced
Scared of life
Insecure with women
Spiritually uncertain
Nervous / afraid
Unsure of myself
Hard on myself
On edge / jumpy
Approval seeking
Stuck in my story
Trapped in a bad feeling
Ignorant to how life works
Weak willed
Unaware of my potential
Unhappy with life, uncomfortable w life
Easily manipulated
Responsible for other people’s feelings
A victim
Bitter
Sorry for myself
Worried
Reliant on others, dependent
Unexcited about life
Closed minded
Unmotivated
Unhappy
Small minded
Ungrateful
Did not define happiness
At the mercy of my feelings
Resentful of exes
Unable to understand extrinsic motivators / others
Distrustful of the universe
A passive partipant in life
Addicted to the past
Disconnected to others
Uncomfortable with silence
Felt responsible to lead conversations
Down about life
Poor self-image / externally defined
Defined by my past / confined to who I was
Irresponsible
Defined by experiences (past perspectives)
Resentful of my childhood
Uncompassionate to myself
My own worst enemy
Unwilling to take responsibility
Blameful of others
Easily influenced by ideas and concepts i.e., “I’m a writer”
Unforgivng of myself
Concerned with people’s judgements but not healthy approval
Unable to let go
Uncomfortable with discomfort
Afraid of confrontation, discomfort
Resigned, ignorant to the power of will, unable to “change” / stuck in my experience
A passenger in life
Stuck in my perspective, did not take responsibility for it
Not at home in the world
Desiring for a “home” but unwilling to take responsibility for it
Afraid to confront my emotions
Concerned w having all the answers to unimportant questions
Unaware of my biases and assumptions
Not aware that my experience was nothing more than my perspective, my processing computer
Unwilling to let people down
Afraid of bad things happening
Poverty mindset
Overly sensitive
Unable to interpret people
A product of family society
Ignorant to the oaktree in the acorn
Quick to fall in love
Full of sorrowful, pity laden, excuses
Poor boundaries, wanted to be loved by everyone, friends w everyone
Wanted every girl to like me
Too open too soon
Unwiling / afraid to examine the past, the deeper reasons behind my decisions
Unprepared, backwards – rather than forward thinking
Selfish in the wrong ways, not sensitive of others
Ill prepared, poor at prepearing
Impulsive
Did not view myself as lovable
Did not understand why people liked or did not like me
A follower of the wrong minds
Unwilling to say no to people
Note: need to go back through life story I wrote and learn, resee things
Was not objective of things, life, decisions, limited to my own head
Victim rather than hero mindset
Could not contain my feelings to myself
Indecisive
Unable to see past present feelings, to a larger narrative
Did not define my own disposition
Egocentric instead of reality centered
Way too impartial due to emotions, did not fault ex girlfriends
Unable to set a plan and stick to it, afraid to pen in my dreams
Needed people to believe in me in order to believe in myself
Unaware of my flaws
Felt I needed the girl of my dreams to dream
Unaware of the limits of my dominating paradigms ex: “The purpose of love is to dream…”
Note: the purpose of love is to share happiness
Unable to move on, to adopt a healthy outlook
Unable to discern other people’s values,
Not concerned enough with them
I lived inconsistent w my own (values) – as a result, I had mixed/poor priorities
Emotionally masochistic
Nothing, including my happiness and wellbeing (nor the happiness of those I loved) was sacred
Did not understand what people wanted for – or from – me
Did not have healthy / confident / worthy expectations of myself
Conformed to the desires of others without taking my own into account
Not at peace with myself and with life
I created struggles in order to justify my story, the pain of my past
Did not define or understand what I needed in the day to week to week living of life
Did not give myself healthy credit for the things I did right, or even just for trying
Did not love or even like myself
Made promises I could not fulfill or did not plan to
Did not apologize when I should have, forgave when I should have not
I looked for the bad and I missed the good
Did not have the compassion to understand who I am
Said the wrong things and sometimes left the right things unsaid
Thought in absolutes, did not understand the perfection of balance, tension between opposites
Let other people’s emotions effect me too much, was not grounded in my own calm masculine energy
Drifted through life, was conquered by my weaknesses, rather than finding victory in my strengths
Attracted the wrong kind of attention to myself
Did not have healthy, mature boundaries
Did not understand people are a product of the times, as was I
Did not understand what I was so desperate to escape from
Did not think about the consequences of my actions
Did not know any better
Did my best

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” – William Blake, The Marraige of Heaven and Hell, (From which Aldous Huxley took the title for his book, ‘The Doors of Perception’, detailing his experience with Mescaline).

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All, Philosophy, Psychology, Self-Actualizing

Freeing Myself from My Twenties

I’m beginning to hear the teachings of my blood pulsing within me. My story isn’t pleasant, it’s not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves

Herman Hesse

It’s no coincidence Hesse wrote this north of thirty: no twenty-two-year-old could write this. Realizations of this depth remain beyond reach until you’ve lived long enough to make a mess of your dreams. Only adults, those over thirty, know what it is to see a dream in decay and no longer want to lie to themselves about it.

For maturity arises not from years but from the myriad of inescapable truths about oneself and the world, which can either be accepted, thus furthering your maturity – or denied, thus retarding it. However at a certain point, you may find that, like me, you’ve passed through some invisible threshold, after which it is simply no longer possible to continue averting your eyes from the most base and inglorious truths. Truths which are, in fact, the bane of your existence for their weight binds like chains, locking you in a personal prison from which your only chance of freedom is to be had in confessing and confronting the truths you’ve buried. So it is: man is his own jailer.

Most people don’t knowingly engage in self-deception but all unknowingly do. This cunning defense mechanism is usually employed to cover up something we feel unable to admit or accept; so, instead, we live in denial. This amounts to treason; although, no traitor sees himself as such. Treason is always justified as better, or at least easier, than allegiance to the alternative, which we almost always undeservedly betray. In the case of denial, it is the self, the soul, whom we play Judas to.

Betraying ones soul is always a toxic and destructive thing. Eventually the body demands palliatives to bury the pain and cognitive dissonance created by the lie you have chosen to live. People then turn to vice: sex, pills, booze, food, and any other anodyne which masks the pain of their secret betrayal. However if you are lucky, the masks simply stop working on some fateful day and the blissless ignorance you suffered so greatly to maintain all at once loses it’s function.

Actor Bradley Cooper, at age twenty-nine, had this to say on his own coming to truth with himself:

“I realized I wasn’t going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m actually gonna ruin my life; I’m really gonna ruin it.'”

Note: Bradley cooper subsequently got sober and went on to become one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood.

It’s not easy to admit you’re going to ruin your life or that you’re not being true to your soul; however, shedding denial is about ushering in the unsexy feelings you need in order to make a beautiful life. It’s about being honest with yourself rather than being enslaved to the illusions of your ego, which cares naught for the truths of the soul.

Once the long buried truths of the soul come to the light of day, they are forever exiled from the darkness. Addressing them, fixing them, repairing them then becomes your personal crusade; the goal to become happy and whole as never before. With the possibility in sight the prospect takes possession of you, using you as a means to an end. The end: a more peaceful heart than you have known in all your years.

At thirty I have such a deepened sense of myself, of my place in time – headed all the way to the end. At thirty you come to realize you are amidst your destiny and this shitshow is, indeed, your life. It’s all at once a comfort and a horror. A comfort to know you survived your twenties and a horror to know your current life is the result. While every twenty year old thinks the coming decade the best, every thirty year old knows better.

In my twenties I made mistakes equal in magnitude to victories. However, the only real mistake is not learning from your missteps. Continuing to live the same destructive actions of your past reveals the deficiency of your character, whereas taking ownership of your life and learning from the past repairs it. Remember that whatever you may view as a mistake ceases to be one the moment you learn something from it.

I intend my thirties to be a time of leveraging my mistakes, of reaping the fruits of my life experience.

I could not look out before me with the ambition and optimism I do had I not lived the past decade of my life exactly as it was: flaws, heartache, angst and all. Frankly, I’m thrilled my twenties are over. My twenties were a decade of thinking I knew more than I did and operating from that supreme, arrogant ignorance.

It’s nearly impossible for a modern man to go though his twenties and not be, for a time, an asshole; however, by thirty a man usually finds calm resignation toward the world’s capacity for coldness, rather than meeting it with his own. He realizes fate is indifferent to his dreams and if they [his dreams] are to be, it is up solely to him. He learns you cannot compartmentalize life; that success in one facet of life, e.g., health, spirituality, is intertwined with every other facet. This holistic approach to life is the only logical response to having settled on so many parts of life at times in our twenties in order to succeed in others – only to later realize that to settle is to suffer.

At thirty a man either wants it all, or nothing at all; thirty can be the beginning of a man’s life or the end of it. The difference is in whether he leaves his dreams buried in his twenties or whether he resurrects them with a definiteness of purpose unlike he has before shown.

Of course this is all based on my mindset at thirty, bolstered by my beliefs, among them the notions: good men get better with age, and a man’s thirties are his time for making hay.

While I made hay for a time in my twenties I was too full of excuses to yet attain everlasting success. These excuses ranged from “I’m heartbroken”, to “I’m a writer”, to “This is just a phase”, but they all served a singular function: to justify me not giving my all or not trying at all. Every excuse was nothing but a way of deluding myself into believing that either the wrong thing or the easy thing was the right thing. As is said, the easy thing and the right thing are seldom the same.

Now that I can see the errors of my ways in the excuses lies I told myself, I can’t help but think, what the hell was I thinking?

Because the truth is, most people don’t know why they do the things they do – they only think they do based on what they’ve told themselves. And so it is, your twenties are a time of rationalizing your existence, whereas your thirties are a time of living from your innermost truths. However to make that shift, you have to become completely honest with yourself. You have to burn all the masks and shed all the excuses.

I have held onto the past for a long time. I’ve for a long time carried torches of my past loves into the night. Tonight I’m casting those torches into the sea where they belong. I’m grateful for my past but it’s nothing compared to where I am going.

Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Character is destiny,” so it is, I intend my thirties to be a decade of great character and great destiny.

I never want to lie to myself again; not about my happiness, not about my past, not about my future, not about my present. I never want to see the world through the eyes of my past again. I never want to betray my own soul again. I never want to feel the need to wear a mask again. Never again will I trust someone more than I trust the voice of my soul and the teachings of my blood.

Note: I wrote this over the course of three or four days during which I had the flu. Stylistically, I’m not in love with it, and it feels even perhaps a bit pedantic, but sometimes you just have to declare something.

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All, Prose

The Storm

Wow. What a year it has been. It’s as if I am back in the good graces of the angels.

I can’t fathom what I must have done to deserve this. This year felt like remembering.

All that I have been, all that counted – all that I am; everything that matters in my heart has crystallized, and I feel better than I have in a long time.

2013 and part of 2014 would prove to be a very neurotic time for me – just a period of trying to think my way out of things. There were bleak times, times dim enough to only be seen in hindsight. At one point there was so little light entering the aperture of my soul I was spiritually dead. You see, I was trying to solve matters of the heart with my head. Of course all that came of that approach was angst – existential masturbation, the thinking man’s enemy.

Consider the preceding paragraph a compressed version of events. The ultimate outcome however, having been that I underwent a kind of rare quantum change that only occurs once or twice in a lifetime – if at all. My chrysalis – a great unscrambling of an egg, consciousness untangling itself, brand new neural networks – biodigital jazz. Like putting my soul in a cosmic rock tumblr: in goes a Jackson Pollack, out comes a Monet. From Tom Odell’s Another Love, to Ed Sheeran’s Kiss Me – angst to romance – I fell back in love with life and my heart grew.

My heart grew.

I can’t elucidate beyond those three words, because no other metaphor can do it justice. So here I sit, big eyed and dumb, knowing that numb is the new deep.

And it’s blissful, but I’m frightened.

It’s the fright of discovering that seemingly eternal island of inner peace within yourself but fearing the tide might rise and you’ll find yourself underwater again.

You see, I’ve never said I’d never go back there – but now I’m ready to look back and declare that I’ve been to a place I don’t ever wish to return to. I’m still scared because I am still scarred. But I’m following my intuition now, something I haven’t consciously – or rather, something I haven’t bravely done for about four years. That hurts to admit, but it’s true – I spent about four years brooding – complex and angry and all alone, even when I wasn’t. It was a hell of a cave. Deep and dark as fuck.

So tonight I’m writing because I am scared of my intuition letting me down. That’s probably my deepest fear. I don’t ever want to go back there – to that magicless place – zemblanity. Total fucking suffering, unbelievable mediocrity.

Despite the fear, I am reminding myself, my intuition has never been wrong. Of course, there are times where I have made errors in judgement (also known as lessons learned), but as far as relying purely on intuition, I can’t ever recall an outcome that wasn’t opaquely intuited beforehand – that’s why it’s called intuition.

You see my dear reader, life is really like one of those choose your own adventure books. Follow your intuition and you can’t go wrong. Follow fear, and doubt, and all things unholy and you will end up fighting giants, playing the game of life on hard mode. But, unlike in the choose your own adventure books where you can take a mulligan on a bad shot, in real life, you don’t get to turn back the pages and do things differently. There is no second time around. Gatsby was wrong. So, you either learn to write the story of your life with great care – with a conscious awareness and an attention to the process, or you simply never wake up, never realizing that this is your story.

And I have awoken, I know this is my story. Infinite possibility. So that’s what I’m doing, I’m trusting the process, learning to sail it one horizon’s tack at a time.

I’m trusting that a fresh dawn will follow the darkest nights and this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. My thoughts and attachments are no more than clouds in this sky, and the squalls come and go, but the sun shines eternal behind it all. It’s a beautiful thing to trust in the power of a new day, because when you really do, you realize that each moment is a new dawn. As is said in one of my favorite movies – “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around”.

It’s just that when you do find yourself in that dark night of the soul, you don’t ever think the sun is going to rise again. 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.” And so it was.

But I never saw the ‘transformation’ (for lack of a better word) that would come of it. I had hoped for a comeback of sorts, and I held fast to the belief that things would one day be better, but I eventually forgot what hoping felt like. And as forgetting goes – I didn’t know that I had forgotten, I just eventually ended up holding onto a semblance of ambition, a thread of destiny hanging before me. I clung to it without knowing what lie on the other end of this thread, I just … well – frankly, I don’t even wish to recall what it was like. (I’ve spent months pushing out the kind of existential diarrhea that only befalls writers and creatives.) Let’s just say I didn’t see the man I could be. I didn’t see myself capable of transcending what felt like all of existence.

But I did; I came out of the storm a changed man. Not a different person – just different, more true to who I am. Vastly more aware of what that is.

“Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami

The storm is a humbling yet empowering experience. I just wish I could have said to myself at the time, Don’t worry man, you’ll make it out of this, but I can’t tell you how many times I just closed my eyes and imagined going deep underwater to a place that felt separate from my experience.  That kind of attempt to escape presence – there are no words for what that is. It’s what I did though. I closed my eyes and imagined going deep into a blue underwater cave. Perhaps a kind of waking dream of sorts – going beneath the surface to escape the storm. Whatever it was, it was all I could do at times to be with myself.

But now I am here.

storm

I’ll let the beautiful poetry of Seinabo Sey close me out.

There’s a conclusion to my illusion
I assure you this
There’s no end to this confusion if you let it wish you well
-Soul to sell
Highest bidders, can’t you tell what you’re getting?
There is a light to all this darkness, I will tell you this
There’s redemption in you asking them just why it is
Some answers are better left unspoken when you know you ain’t getting any younger

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All, Psychology, spirituality

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: On Suffering, Fear, And The Shadow

“We are afraid of our shadows. We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto outside. We are afraid of the dark; we are like children, and again, part of the mystical journey is to face that darkness. Also you need the sword of your own aspiration to go into the darkness inside yourself and to face that darkness, and then you discover that it isn’t that dark after all – the fears that you had – things change, and then you begin to discover the light that is hidden in the darkness. This is one of the great alchemical secrets, this is one of the great secrets of human transformation – that you go into the darkness, and it is terrifying at first, and then you discover this light of your own divine nature that is hidden in the darkness. It is called the pearl of great price that is at the bottom of the ocean, it is in the depths of darkness, there is something so beautiful, but most people are afraid of it, because there is a price to pay to confront your own fears, your own anxieties, and to go deep within yourself. It is much easier to project it and to have enemies outside, people you dislike. Then you can project your problems and it is somebody else’s fault. For the mystic it is always us.”

– Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee

We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto.

Background

I’m quite taken by the mind of Sufi mystic, lecturer, and author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

Being that I am awakened on a spiritual path, I enjoy exploring numerous teachers from across nearly every era and doctrine. That being said, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee blows me away. And not just because he is a quote-unquote true mystic, but because he has a PhD in Jungian Psychology and is a truly bright intellectual. This lends an incredible depth to his knowledge of the human interior world and his keen sense of understanding on psychology, myth, and symbolism is evident within his lectures.

To hear a spiritual teacher reference Joseph Campbell and Rumi in the same span is nothing short of wholly refreshing. Eckhart, I have grown fond of you, and this isn’t goodbye, but Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is like you on the limitless drug. Ironically, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee was recently hanging out with Exkhart’s good friend Oprah.

Introduction

The arrival of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee in my life could not have come at a better time, as I am growing increasingly interested in the shadow after having recently had an experience where I faced certain aspects of my shadow for perhaps the first time. I understand innately that I am intrinsically afraid of the shadow, and I don’t like fear – I desperately wish to overcome it, and this has been a relatively consistent focus of mine this year, but I’ve lacked a deep enough understanding on the mechanics of fear to truly dispel the underlying fear that exists in my psyche. It’s one thing to have a transcendental experience of fear where fear is overcome, but it’s another to get to the root of it, where fear is effectively dissolved.

In listening to Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee speak on the human psyche in a spiritual context, I knew that I had happened on something that was the next piece in my journey to facing the inner dragons, which occupy a seat in all of our souls.

In a nearly hour-long interview, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee faces a myriad of what are often borderline sophomoric questions (i.e., “if you had one wish what would it be?”), but nonetheless manages to deliver answers with great grace and timeless wisdom. Integrating the topics of the psyche, the shadow, and fear into a cohesive narrative on spirituality, Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee provides a rare glimpse into the keys to unlocking the inner world.

On Suffering as a Process of Purification

And if you look at it [suffering] from a spiritual point of view, anyone who has begun the spiritual journey knows that suffering is a process of purification, where we clean out the debris that we have accumulated inside of us, the denseness, the darkness within the psyche, and that suffering – that purification, the Sufis call it polishing the mirror of the heart. 

Note: I recently dreampt I was pulling dead branches down from a tree [clearing debris], an experience I wrote of here.

Problems as Essential Paths to Growth

In this world of duality, nothing is perfect, nothing is pure, it is part of our dynamic of life; Carl Jung, the great psychologist, he said you should never take somebody’s problems away from them because it’s through their problems that they grow, it is through this friction of light and dark that we grow.

On The Divine Spark Within Us All

We have in us a divine spark, you can see it – it’s a light that shines in the human being. It’s our direct access to truth, our direct access to God, and the purpose of all the spiritual practices that exits are to awaken that spark, to give it life, to give it energy – so that it can transform you. 

On What Keeps Most People From Living Their Full Potential

Fear – it stops them stepping into the light of the of their own self. And there is this saying that ‘people are not so much afraid of the darkness as of the light’ – of their own power, of their own potential, because then you have to become a responsible adult, and most people prefer to be children and to blame somebody else, but it is never anybody else’s fault. Once you take full responsibility for your life – it is your destiny – it is your life. Nobody else can live it for you.


jungs


Bonus: Free Audios – Mystical Life and the Inner Worlds

From the description: These talks explore the inner worlds of the mystical journey, focusing on the symbolic, archetypal world and the interior dimension of the Self. The symbolic world is an intermediate dimension whose archetypal images have a powerfully determining influence on our outer life. The Self belongs to a world beyond time and space that exists within the heart of each of us. The mystical journey gives us a direct experience of these interior realities.

Download them here.

Shadow Work and Reading List

Jung defined the shadow as: “The Shadow describes the part of the psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge. It contains the denied parts of the self. Since the self contains these aspects, they surface in one way or another. Bringing Shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power, however, comes from having accepted your shadow parts and integrated them as components of your Self.”

Shadow Work is the work of the heart-warrior – C.G. Jung

I’m assuming if you read the quote in this entry on The Shadow you are likely interested in learning more about this hidden, yet vital aspect of your psyche. The following books are on my reading list for future study / self-work.

Remember, as Joseph Campbell said, the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Read this next, The Heroes Journey: Sensing and Shaping Your Destiny Through Personal Mythology and Personal Myths

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All, Ancient Wisdom, MyFavoritez, Personal Mythology, Philosophy, spirituality, Timeless Truths

The Heroes Journey: Sensing and Shaping Your Destiny Through Personal Mythology and Personal Myths

Gaining a Sense of Your Own Destiny Through Personal Mythology

I think it’s incredibly important that each of us cultivate a knowing of our own personal mythology and a sense of our own destiny. These things intertwine past and future into a grand story – something bigger than our present circumstances.

This [having a sense of your own destiny] will provide you with an unwavering feeling of inner security, even in the face of your greatest challenges. It’s the knowing that you are “on path”, but it’s also a larger than life understanding that to be reborn we must be crucified. (DO Watch the four and a half minute video at the end of this entry.)

world_against_me

Having a sense of your own destiny is one of the keys to maintaining deep confidence in yourself.

It’s more than the belief in fate, it’s loving that which is fated for you – all of it, because you know you are the hero of your own story, and even heroes face the mundane (from the Latin mundus, meaning “world”), and all heroes must face their own unique adversities (from the Latin adverture, meaning “to turn toward”).

It’s the ancient idea (From The Stoics) that the obstacles in our path become our path. This is the heroes journey that we are all taking. Knowing this will help guide you, and will greatly strengthen your inner intuition.

What Makes a Hero: Must Watch


Note: The seed of this idea came about from four separate things that came into my life.

The first was a therapist who told me that “It’s important that you cultivate your own personal mythology”, at the time I didn’t know what she meant and didn’t ask her to elucidate. The second was something I read in a book about Walt Disney, someone who knew him said “He had a sense of his own destiny”. The third was in reading Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, and The Power of Myth. And the final thing that reinforced this concept was reading The Obstacle is The Way, and of course, in my perpetual reading of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

Update: 11/8/2014

I came across the following quote, which I felt should be added here. Ironically, I am a big Carl Jung reader; however, I certainly did not gain this notion from reading Jung as I had innately felt my own “sense of destiny” long before I knew of Jung; although, I am not surprised to have read the following quote from a man who was deeply in touch with his own inner world.

“From the beginning I had a sense of Destiny, as though my life was assigned  to me by fate and had to be fulfilled. This gave me an inner security, and, though I could never prove it to myself, it proved itself to me. ‘I’ did not have this certainty, ‘it’ had me. ” C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections


Future Reading on Myth as a Mirror For The Ego

I want to continue exploring the idea of myth as a mirror for the ego, as Joseph Campbell called it. The following books have been added to my reading list:

Update: I am not a big fan of Ted talks; however, I was doing more research on personal myth after I published that and I came across a TEDx talk titled, Personal Myth Busters: Opening the Door to Possibility, and I am very glad I watched this talk all the way through as it led to the following.

The Stories We Tell: Creating Your Own Destiny Though Personal Myths

If personal mythology is your story on a grand scale, then personal myths are the slogans and paradigms that shape the way we see our lives on a daily basis. They are the myriad and often limiting lenses of our perception.

Viewing personal myth as slogans that define our limits and our destinies, Heather Evans gives a valuable talk on “the stories we tell each other (and ourselves) everyday”, and whether or not they are serving us. On the purpose of these micro-myths she says, “We create these myths because we find comfort in them”.

Heather Evans on Personal Myths as Limiting Slogans

In the talk she covers three phases of personal mythology. The first phase she describes our beliefs as being restricted to the myths we learn through our parents – even absurd ones, such as eating a watermelon seed and having a watermelon grow in you. These stories we grow up serve to keep us safe. The next phase she talks about is that we start playing with different personal myths – trying them on, much as someone would put a bumper-sticker on their car. During this phase of deciding what we want and “dipping our toe” in the water, these myths start playing themselves out in our lives. For example, the person who subscribes to the personal myth that “Everything is a lesson” begins to learn from everything – but not necessarily the lesson they need. As an aside on this, for a long time I subscribed to the personal myth that “I grew through adversity” – as such, I created a lot of adversity in my life. And the final stage, she doesn’t go into great detail on; however, she describes it as finding new myths by asking “what is calling me?” As an example of this shift, she provides a cartoon from the New Yorker, where a woman is saying “I don’t want to be defined by who I am”. We can learn a great deal here. By changing our personal myths – the stories we tell ourselves – we can change our life, and as I wrote about yesterday, perception is reality.

Personal Myth as Story Reading List

While the above reading list deals with personal mythology as a way to navigate our way through life, this list focuses on myths as stories that define the limits in our day to day lives.

Note: I just realized that I wrote about changing your life by changing your story almost exactly one year ago to the day, and in revisiting that entry tonight I have such a clearer perspective on the matter – so much so that some of the things I wrote in it are almost uncannily ironic. Having now watching this TEDx talk, it’s clear to me what my therapist had meant in telling me that it was important for me to cultivate my own personal mythology. 

Interested in changing your stories?

Read this next, Meditations Session One: On Stories and The Waking Dream, Self-Worth, and Happiness

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All, Philosophy, Psychology, stoicism, Timeless Truths

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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All, Poetry, Timeless Truths

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.

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All, humanity, Philosophy, Psychology, Self-Actualizing, stoicism, Timeless Truths

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

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All, family, humanity, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Timeless Truths

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.

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All, motivation, MyFavoritez, Psychology, Self-Actualizing, Timeless Truths

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?

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All, family, health, motivation, Music, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Psychology, Self-Actualizing

This is Who I Am – Reflections on Quantum Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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