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.

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.

One Day You Will

The first time I heard 808’s and heartbreak…
Was way back in two-thousand-and-eight –

And I thought about making a mixtape

Six years later, how the fuck I ain’t gain no weight?

I’m not talkin’ ’bout that cake – wait
I don’t mean to confuse,
.
.
.
.
.
.
I’m just in a smart ass mood
.
.
.
.
.
.
But I don’t mean to be rude
.
.
.
.I don’t mean to be rude

You can have your cake and eat it to
Yeah,
Drink some Malibu in Malibu
Drinkin’ Malibu in Malibu
Yeah – Bugatti

(*laugh)

They say money doesn’t buy happiness,
Have you ever seen a sad person on a jet-ski?

Yeah,
Half a decade’s a little late

But go ahead –
Say what you need to say –
‘Cause you’re not a rapper anyway –
‘Cause you’re not a rapper anyway –

So say what you need to say

Yeah you promised some change
But you’re not whippin’ a Range

Yes life is fucking strange

So who knows

I saw

That’s what you get when you

‘Cause I promised change too and now I’m

Took me six years to start writing this poetic mixtape
But I thought about it back then – I just didn’t see it comin back around

and now it’s all a self-fulfilling prophecy
I just
’cause I thought about it from day one but I ain’t know one day I’d return
Guess I had to go through another heartache
I just wanted to remix it I ain’t wanted to relive it

to actually start making my with a mixtape
So how am I making the same fuckin’ mistakes
Thought the song would be different but it’s soundin’ like a missed take

It’s a different girl but I ain’t in a different world

From 20k months at 24 – to 28 nights back on the floor

it’s the backdrop for my first poetic mixtape

Way before I ‘caught my third heartache
I made 20k a month at twenty four
Now I’m back to the floor
mistakes I made before the age of 28

long before this heartbreak –
I knew I’d put words on these songs
When I first met you I didn’t know I’d end up alone

Now winter’s coming it’s no Game of Thrones
‘Cause the rents overdue and she’s cuttin’ off my phone
How you gonna let your boy go through this alone

Can’t see her through these eyes

Winter’s coming – no game of thrones

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.

Why True Love is so Rare

When I saw the title ‘The Truth About Love’ in my FB feed I thought, Damn linkbait! Now I have to click and make sure I’m not missing anything. 

But I was very happy I did click – not because I discovered something I didn’t know, but because I was reminded that what I know is true. You see, I’ve come to find out the exact truth about love that Ben Neal wrote of in this mini essay. I’m almost certain Mr. Neal learned this truth the way I did, which is to say, the way you learn this, through massive heartache and loss, and searching, and lots and lots of inner work.

Eventually I may write something that encompasses previous entries I have written on love (ranging from the relatively idealistic to the purely rational), but for now this encapsulates how I feel very well.

###

This following was published in Elephant Journal, and was written by Ben Neal.

“Do you believe in love?

I’m talking about that deep down, life changing, earth shaking, always-and-forever kind of love—the stuff of poetry and legend.

Many people are skeptical, and for good reason. Today’s culture isn’t very fertile ground for romance. With social media, text messaging and online dating, we’ve revolutionized communication but we’ve lost the art of relationship. There are very few success stories. (Sometimes it seems like there are very few people having real, face-to-face conversations anymore!)

But I believe. Scratch that. I know.

True love is real—deep, unconditional, everlasting love. The reason it is so rare is because it is so misunderstood.

Most people’s idea of “true love” looks something like this: Mr. or Mrs. Right is waiting out there somewhere, “the One” they are destined to be with. And that special someone is looking for them too, and it’s only a matter of time before they meet each other—and of course, they’ll both live happily ever after.

Bullshit.

Happily ever after doesn’t exist. And God didn’t hand pick one special person just for you. In fact, the whole idea of finding fulfillment in someone else is an illusion.

The truth is, love can only be found within.

Most people who are looking for love “out there” are actually just running away from loneliness. They constantly settle for less than what they want, and less than what they deserve, because their greatest fear is to be alone, grow old alone and die alone.

The fear of loneliness prevents us from experiencing real intimacy. True love lies beyond that fear. We have to face what Louis C.K. calls the “forever empty,” the unquenchable sadness deep within us; the ever present knowledge of our own mortality, that in the end we all face death all alone.

The truth is that real love requires real inner work that most people just aren’t interested in. It requires that we first be happy in our solitude; that we come to know ourselves, accept ourselves and love ourselves. We have to find our peace of mind, find our purpose, our passion, our joie de vivre.

It requires that we lay down the ego’s defenses and be naked and vulnerable; that we give up our planning and fantasizing about the future and live in the Now. Only then are we really ready to love. When you fully grasp that tomorrow is not guaranteed—that this moment is truly all that we have—there is nothing to do but give everything you’ve got, expecting nothing in return.

In fact, you know in advance that your heart will be broken. You will be lied to, you will be taken for granted; you will be hurt and disappointed. Sooner or later, between here and your deathbed, you will have to say goodbye. You know it, you accept it, and you love anyway.

Real love is divine. It comes from a relationship with God, a dance with emptiness which takes us beyond the human self, beyond the ego’s petty games to know a timeless love; to taste the fullness of joy.

What we call “true love” is that rare and sacred union that happens when two people join in this dance together.

It is a friendship, a love affair and an act of worship. Passion, lust, affection, caring, trust, respect and devotion all become part of an exquisite surrender. Lovers merge with each other and with the vast, wild universe. Neither knows for sure if it will last a weekend or a lifetime. It doesn’t matter.

All that matters is this moment of oneness—holy and beautiful.

It contains eternity.”

When you have discovered that abundant love lives in that higher place within you, and when you have learned to reinterpret your stories and reevaluate your belief systems about what love is, then you can begin to cultivate the true self-compassion, unconditional self-acceptance, and healthy self-love that true love requires. And two people who have each discovered this is such a rare thing. And this is why true love is so rare.

Bonus: Watch the Prince EA Video on love in this entry to get an even better sense of what true love is.

Update: The following is excerpted from the above referenced video by Prince EA (on love), which I wanted to include here because it puts this entry and the message here about what true love is in such a clearer context:

“See, the truth is, we have forgotten what love is. Our ideas about love come from storybooks, romantic comedies, popular songs, facebook memes – and they all show this fuzzy romantic type of love, and as you are aware, in your own life, these ideas have led to more anxiety and pain then true pleasure [fullfilment] and happiness… because these ideas themselves are flawed, they are based on ownership and selfishness “You are my bae, my boo, my sweetheart; I love you – but only if you’re with me”. That’s a possessive type of love, that’s a love with strings attached, that’s an impure type of love.

Ask yourself this question: who do you hate? It’s probably somebody you used to love right.

Thinking that somebody can fix you or that you can fix somebody else is just plain wrong. See, love is an inside job. In order to love others we must first love ourselves. We have to mature in a way that we can take care of our own emotional needs –  we can help ourselves – and that way, we accept the flaws in our partner because we have already accepted the flaws in ourselves.

There’s no more anger or controlling clinginess in this type of love, there’s a relaxed acceptance, there’s kindness, there’s tenderness, there’s vulnerability.

And when you are reflecting your true self, your true soul, you’re no longer reflecting anger, pain, your past failures, and your ego – that’s when love can blossom because the souls only expression is pure love.

And I think when two people, when two souls come to this understanding – that’s rare, that’s beautiful, and that’s something we should all strive for

So word to the wise, if you don’t know how to love, you will ultimately destroy it.”

Rewire Your Brain to Be Grateful Morning, Noon, and Night

Image credit: Mandy Ingber on Abundant Gratitude
Image credit: Mandy Ingber on Abundant Gratitude

I could begin this entry with a preface a mile long about how the changes I’ve adopted in my life have changed me. Suffice to say – I am very grateful.

I thought about this last night as I reflected on my journey over the past year, and what I knew to be absolutely true was that the change had been gradual – conscientious and directed, but gradual. And a resultant product of that graduality is the compound effect these habits and ways of thinking have had on each other. My wellbeing today is a very holistic product of the sum of my habits – so much so that I’m working to methodically fine tune my habits of routine over the coming weeks (yes, there is a spreadsheet), and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for my inner and outer life. Feelsgoodman. And if my words come across as self-gratifying at all, that’s probably because they are. I’m not here to tell my story today, but I’ve earned my inner sanctity through nothing less than sheer force of will. My goal with this entry is simply to help propel you, my dear reader, forward down this same beautiful path.

I suppose I did end up with a mile long preface regardless, but brevity was never my strong-suit.

I want to begin with the story about how gratitude changed my life. Firstly, I loathe the word gratitude. It just inherently feels like new age smugness to me. But g-ddamnit, the shit works.

Part of my journey over the past year has been a conscious choosing of new habits in order to rewire my brain. I’m not kidding. It’s called neuroplasticity, and it’s one of the most glorious scientific facts I know – nothing short of a biological miracle.

Here’s a one-minute video on neuroplasticity at it’s most basic level – the synapse:

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.

Mahatma Gandhi

Seeds of gratitude are powerful forces for influencing your destiny – and as this Psychology Today article on the psychology of gratitude states, gratitude is different from, and more powerful than, appreciation:

Gratitude should also be distinguished from appreciation, which is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of a person or thing, but without the dimension of awe or wonder or profundity or humility that is the essence of gratitude.

Unfortunately, from an evolutionary psychology perspective, we are wired to be negative. Our survival was dependent upon our ability to identify dangers and threats. So, in the modern world, we are still subject to the same automatic negative bias that once helped our ancestors make it through each day with their lives intact.

So we end up going through life rarely cognizant of the amazing gifts and blessings that envelop each of our days in an abundance not known in centuries past, or to the majority of the world’s inhabitants who aren’t blessed to live in a peaceful and prosperous nation where they have not only basic human rights, but clean water, heat, shelter, and ample food.

But I’m not asking you to base your happiness on the fact that you aren’t in a North Korean gulag. As true as that is, it can also be a dangerous cop-out to use gratitude as an excuse for not living your life to it’s fullest potential. The real secret of gratitude is that it’s not meant only as a means to augment your happiness based on your existing circumstance, but to augment your existing circumstance based on your happiness.

The real secret of gratitude is that it’s not meant only as a means to augment your happiness based on your existing circumstance, but to augment your existing circumstance based on your happiness.

So, here’s what I have done to augment my circumstances with the additional happiness the practice of gratitude has given me. And let’s be clear, gratitude is a practice – you must practice it each day. Remember we are rewiring our brain.

1. Each morning, upon waking – the very first thing I do is begin to think of things I am grateful for. 

If you were living your dream life – what would you do upon waking up? You would be grateful. Period. Don’t make me get verbose to explain this, use your imagination.

2. Each evening, I write in my journal the list of things I am grateful for.

This allows me to catch anything I missed during the day, and allows me to relive the feelings of gratitude I experienced. Not to mention that journaling itself can change your life – something I will write on in the future.

3. Each night before bed, I think of the things I am grateful for as I lie in the dark.

This way I can never go to bed in a bad mood.

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It’s that simple. Period. You were meant to be grateful.

The problem is that society has programmed us to be negative. We focus on lack. We think we will believe it when we see it, but the truth is we will see it when we believe it. Try this for a month. I promise you, you won’t want to stop.

And pretty soon, you will find yourself more mindful of the things you are grateful for throughout your day.

And pretty soon you will find you have more to be grateful for. I beg of you my dear reader to trust you are reading this for a reason. Just try it. You’ll be surprised at what you are grateful for. You’ll come to find that you enjoy the things you are grateful for more the next time you experience them. You don’t need to read a book on gratitude, you merely need to practice it. By doing this, you’re requiring your brain to be grateful morning, noon, and night and thus rewiring your brain for a more grateful life.

10 Themes of Stoicism: This is Good Stuff

quote-Epictetus-men-are-disturbed-not-by-things-but-48832

I ended up on Youtube this afternoon looking for a couple specific videos on Stoicism (this and this) to forward to someone I know who is currently facing some very challenging and uncertain circumstances.

In my own life, Stoic teachings have been an extremely transformative force – so much so, that today I describe myself as a practicing Stoic Philosopher, and I am; Stoicism is a part of my daily routine – a part of my psyche. And just to put this into context, I had long loved Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, but only started getting deeper into Stoicism over the past year, at which point I quickly discovered something more valuable to me than years of therapy and self-help books. Interestingly enough, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is actually based on Stoic teachings, which the founders of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have freely admitted. Note: I happen to regularly practice self-administered CBT exercises – namely belief / story editing (I have touched on both before, but will write dedicated entries on each soon – so subscribe if you would like to get them), and overall I have a very positive outlook on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. My journey as a Stoic has only emboldened this as the two [CBT and Stoic Philosophy] are extremely complimentary.

So getting back to my youtube search this morning for the links placed in the first paragraph, I noticed a related video titled 10 Themes of Stoicism that I had not previously viewed. Needless to say (given the title of this entry) I was impressed.

I have previously published an entry covering 8 Great Ideas from Stoicism based on the work of Jules Evans, author of Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations: Ancient Philosophy for Modern Problems.

Just to recap those 8 great ideas, they are as follows.

  1. It’s not events that cause us suffering, but our opinion about events.
  2. Our opinions are often unconscious but we can bring them to consciousness by asking ourselves questions.
  3. We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we react.
  4. Choose your perspective wisely.
  5. Habits are powerful.
  6. Fieldwork is vital.
  7. Virtue is sufficient for happiness.
  8. We have ethical obligations to our community.

The full entry breaks each down in further detail.

Now, just as I did in that entry [on the 8 great ideas from Stoicism] – I am going to break down the 10 Themes of Stoicism within this entry – per the source material, which is excellent. Kudos to the creator of this wonderful video. Sidenote: it’s clear the narrator is a professor at a college, but I cannot find his name, nor the name of the college! Kind of a frustrating and amusing mystery.

Note: If you do not wish to watch the videos (I would recommend it for a better learning experience, but that’s just me), you may scroll down for my transcripts and notes.

Part 1

Part 2

Just to recap and preserve the content for posterity’s sake, I’ve broken down verbatim – with my notes in italic – the 10 Themes below.

Note: The above video is much more thorough than the notes that follow, which just cover the themes themselves and do not include the author’s wonderful explanations.

10 Themes From Stoicism

1. Recognize what’s under your control and what’s not on your control. Don’t worry about what’s not in your control.

Under my control:

  • My reactions (how I choose to perceive events / what I decide to believe about them)
  • My Emotions (how I choose to respond to events)
  • Virtue / Doing the Right Thing

Not “really” under my control:

  • External Events
  • Body, property, fame, reputation, history, fate, pleasure / pain

The first and most important theme is to recognize what’s under your control and what’s not under your control – and don’t worry about what’s not under your control. This is the most important Stoic theme; all other themes connect to it in some way.

You cannot control things, but you can control your reaction to them.

To paraphrase the words of Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations:

Nothing is either good or bad, but only our thinking that makes it so. Remember, nothing can touch the mind.

So for the Stoic, it’s permissible to try to manage the uncontrollable, but you shouldn’t attach your identity or happiness to controlling the uncontrollable.

So say to everything that you cannot control:

I can be happy and good with or without you. My happiness and goodness is based on what I can control.


 2. Conform Your Will to The Divine Order of The Universe

  • Be content with what you have instead of constantly striving to get what you desire.
  • Be content no matter what happens
  • Divine order of Universe

The second theme of Stoicism is to conform your will to the Divine Order of The Universe. The Stoics believed that people should conform to this perfect order that permeates the universe.

A deeper reading of Stoicism supports the idea of contentment no matter what happens, not passivity. So, Marcus Aurelius is a good example; he worked to make the world a better place but he did not base his happiness on the results, because the results are outside of his control – his efforts are in his control but not the results.

The important thing to understand here, which the video touches on in this section, is that Stoic metaphysical beliefs support the idea of fate. As the video states: 

Since we can’t change this beautiful divine reality, we should live in harmony with it – that is, we should conform our desires to this reality, rather than making reality conform to our desires. Submitting to this reality will lead to peace of mind, happiness, and virtue for the Stoic.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Stoics were not pessimists, but rather believed in the idea of destiny – and Stoicism is designed to help you live a happy life by not fighting ‘what is’. 


3. Understand Your Emotions. Don’t Repress (or assent to) All Emotions.

  • Modern Cognitive Therapy
  • Belief / Emotion Divide
  • Stop and think about your emotions. Be the master of your own mind.

Interestingly, of this theme – the author says:

This is one of my favorite themes of Stoicism and what got me into Stoicism in the first place.

While I don’t think this theme is of vastly more value than the previous two, it’s relation to modern cognitive therapy makes it of particular interest to me as well. It’s important to remember that Stoicism is a way of life, which is what makes it such a valuable philosophy. 

So the Stoic simply recognizes that emotions are based on beliefs, and many of our disruptive emotions are based on false, unreal beliefs.

This is the basis of CBT, and per the author:

Now this type of cognitive therapy is one that many therapists still use today, and if you study Ellis’ [Albert Ellis, one of the original founders of CBT] Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (a type of CBT), which he created in the twentieth century – if you read his biography, you’ll see that he got many of his ideas from the Stoics. Note: the Stoics lived over 2,000 years ago.

The author then makes an important distinction about this value that clarifies the misconception that Stoics are ’emotionless’:

Now of course, the criticism is that some negative emotions might be caused by a chemical imbalance, so this cognitive, Stoic approach won’t work. But I still think the Stoic, or Cognitive approach works for most people with disruptive emotions, because most disruptive emotions are based on false beliefs or unrealistic expectations.

So, in the end the Stoics show far less emotion because they understand that most emotions are simply errors in judgement, and they have conditioned themselves to think about emotions before giving their assent to them. Their advice is to avoid becoming the emotion – don’t go with the flow – rather, think about the thinking that created the emotion and doing so will give you control over your negative emotions.

Mindfulness is also extremely complimentary to this!


4. Do The Right Thing No Matter The Cost

  • You only control your soul / mind, so take care of it. Live virtuously and with integrity.
  • Do right no matter the cost.
  • Conforming your mind to reality will lead to virtue.

The next theme is to do what’s right no matter the cost; so Stoicism maintains that the only thing you can really control in this life is your soul, your mind, and the way to protect it is to live a life of virtue. So, do the right thing even if it hurts, and don’t complain of the hurt.

Stoicism is very much focused on virtue, integrity, and duty – in a sense, it’s the embodiment of some of the most important qualities of the mature masculine male. 

According to Stoicism your central focus in life should be conforming your mind to reality and this leads to virtue, a recognition of integrity – it leads to doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. Conforming your mind takes time and effort, it’s as if you’re sculpting yourself, you’re creating habits of thought and behavior that are realistic – and therefore virtuous.

So, Stoic virtue is a form of training, just as a soldier or an athlete trains. Now, I think one important thing about Stoicism is how important motive or intention is in Stoic ethics. I cannot control the outcome, but I can control my motive so I should focus on acting from a good motive. They believed you should do the right thing simply because it’s right, not because it brings about happiness – not because it’s in my short term self-interest, not because God says it’s right – you do what’s right because it’s right.

My favorite quote here is Aurelius’:

An emerald shines even if it’s worth is not spoken of – Marcus Aurelius

So, if you are virtuous, maybe nobody recognizes it, nobody praises you, but there’s still value there, just as an emerald shines even if it’s worth is not spoken of.


5. Understand that events are not problematic; rather it’s your thinking that makes them so. 

  • Adjust your beliefs and expectations to fit reality.
  • Youtube Video: Seneca on Anger.

“With any luck, nothing so terrible will happen to us, but bad things can happen, and the best way to soften the blows if they come is to be prepared. Anger and frustration are essentially irrational responses to setbacks, and the only rational strategy is to stay calm about the fact that things do go wrong. That way we’ll be in the truest and best sense of the word philosophical.”

  • Great, great video by the way, you can also read Seneca’s ‘book’ On Anger.
  • Have more realistic (less optimistic) expectations and beliefs. Optimism is often harmful. If you disagree with this notion [that optimism is often harmful], watch the above video. It posits that pessimism is often more aligned with the rational nature of reality, i.e., don’t get angry in traffic because traffic is by nature not pleasurable. Selective pessimism is certainly something you need to be cognizant of in order to carefully apply it where it can benefit you, and not where it is a hindrance to your success, which I feel pessimism usually is. So perhaps we should think of a lack of optimism as realism and not pessimism.
  • Prepare your mind (for loss) so you don’t lose it.
  • Two people experience same event, but react differently.

Again, everything ties back to the first theme or principle of: ‘recognize what’s under your control and what’s not under your control’. How we choose to perceive things is always under our control. 

If you accept such things to happen, then you won’t be as angry and disturbed when they do happen. That is you won’t lose your mind – remember that is they only thing that you can control, if you prepare your mind for reality. For example, consider how two different people may react to the same situation. Let’s say they both stepped on a tack. The first person cries and screams and complains about the tack all day long. But the second person steps on the tack, calmly removes it and then forgets the event ever happened. Notice the difference between these two people lies in their thinking, not in what happened to them.

The fact that the second person is not disturbed shows that much of our suffering comes from how we think – how we interpret events, not what happens to us externally.


6. Live With Compassion and Respect for Human Rights

  • Every human has a spark of the divine Logos within (rights).
  • Everyone is a brother or sister (compassion).
  • Everyone is a piece of the vast puzzle. Most Stoics don’t believe in afterlife (humility).

The sixth theme is to live with compassion and respect for human rights. So, I mentioned earlier that the Stoics believed in a universal, divine, pantheistic and fiery Logos, and that every human has a spark of this within them. So you can infer that we are all one blood, we are all one body. Every person we meet is intrinsically valuable – they are like a brother or sister to us. So, as in Christianity, the Stoic makes it possible to see everyone’s humanity. Everyone is valuable, intrinsically valuable.

So the proper response to this worldview is compassion to all humans. It also creates humility since it maintains that everyone is part of the fire that makes the whole, everyone is a part of God. So each of us is a piece of the puzzle and this creates humility and appreciation for others as well. Each of us is intrinsically valuable, divine, and beautiful.

So – far from repressing emotion, the Stoic mind supports a strong sense of compassion, and a ground belief in human rights, and a strong sense of humility.

And as a side note it’s interesting to compare Stoicism to Christianity, you know both emphasize recognizing what’s not in your control, and not worrying about it – and both ask you to submit to something higher. And if you look at the Serenity Prayer, you can see some of the similarities between Christianity as exemplified by the Serenity Prayer and Stoicism. (I personally can not find any other obvious parallels between Stoicism and Christianity beyond the virtue of compassion, and the Serenity Prayer.)

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
Amen.


7. Cultivate Right Thinking Through Daily Activities like Meditation, Contemplation, Reflecting, and Journaling

This is another area that really separates Stoicism from other Philosophies as not just a way of thinking, but as a way of living. 

  • Meditation on death and all that could go wrong.
  • Immunize yourself.

The Stoics engaged in all these activities, so for example as you read the Stoics, you find that many of them as you to meditate on your death – especially the decomposition of your physical body. And among the benefits of dwelling on your death are a greater appreciation for the present and a larger and more accurate perspective on life. So such a perspective will help me and you prioritize your desires, immunize yourself from stressing about trivial things.

Also, thinking about the death of others can help you prioritize. So, for example, remembering that my parents may die tomorrow makes me want to call them to enjoy the time we have together.

So what the Stoics are saying here is not to dwell on death all day, but rather to take 5 to 10 minutes to remember the big picture, to remember that you are mortal and you are finite and so are you loved ones. And it will remind you to stop and smell the roses if you do this each day.

The Stoics also ask you to dwell on your worst case scenarios each day. So imagine that you will get sick, that your spouse will leave you, and so on. Don’t dwell on them, just remember that it’s possible – for 5 or 10 minutes each day.

The purpose of these meditations isn’t to depress you, but it’s to help you be happier by adjusting your expectations and helping you be prepared. To give you an example, I won’t lose my mind in anger if I prepare myself for long lines at the grocery store. So, if I expect a line to be 20 minutes at the grocery store, and it’s only 10 minutes, I probably won’t lose my mind in frustration or anger, but if I go in being overly optimistic – if I expect the lines to be two minutes long then I will probably get frustrated, get angry, and lose my mind.

So in short, too much optimism, expecting the lines to be short at the store is a vice; too much pessimism can be a vice too, so you want to adjust your expectations to reality. If I deeply understand that I’ll be fine no matter what happens to me in an external sense, I’ll live more happily and more peacefully – again, I won’t lose my mine (aka, you won’t ‘lose your cool’).

These activities that cultivate right thinking, – they’re really not difficult, you can do many of them pretty much anywhere in a matter of seconds. And this is really a strength of Stoicism, since many religions, and other philosophies seem to require a great deal of time to master.


8. Understand The External World is Determined, but you have Internal Freedom to Choose Your Attitude Towards these Determined Events

  • Clarifies first theme (control / can’t control).
  • More forgiving of others since they are controlled by forces beyond their understanding.

So, the Stoic believes in external Determinism but internal freewill. And this theme clarifies the first theme, what we can and can’t control. So again, the Stoics are determinists,  but they believe in an internal freewill. They say we can’t really change externals, but we can change our reactions and attitudes towards those externals. So we can control our attitudes and choose to do the right thing no matter the cost.

The Stoics also think that understanding the deterministic nature of the universe will make you more forgiving of others since people are controlled by forces beyond their control.

The Stoics were not pure hard determinists in the modern sense, but they believed in an internal ability to alter the way we see the world.

My own spiritual views are highly complimentary to Stoic philosophy and pantheistic ideology, but I believe our internal freewill largely influences the external world. 


9. Calmness, Humility, Discipline, and Indifference to Pleasure and Pain

Because of their worldview and training, the Stoics are calm in the face of adversity.

  • Calmness: prepared for all scenarios
  • Indifferent to own suffering: they understand pleasure and pain to be externals, beyond control.
  • Disciplined because mind guides, not pleasure or pain. They were not hedonists. (Temperance rather than YOLO)

It’s really important to understand that the Stoics give us a worldview and a philosophy of emotion, and various techniques like premeditation that help us achieve these virtues of calmness, humility, discipline, indifference to pleasure and pain. In other words, these virtues don’t just arise in a vacuum, they arise in the fertile soil that is the Stoic worldview.


10. Stop Whining; Turn Adversity into Advantage

  • Builds on other themes.
  • Think of the many ways you can turn failure into something good.

Make the best out of any difficult situation you are in. So the Stoic worldview equips people to get the most of of life. Understanding emotions they won’t pity themselves. Understanding natures order, Stoics will be more forgiving of what others do. Understanding the divine spark in each of us, the Stoics won’t hate someone who creates adversity. Thereby the Stoic will face adversity and calmly turn it into an advantage.

Note: A book that recently came out, which I just read on this theme is The Obstacle is The Way. It’s based on the Marcus Aurelius quote: 

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way

Personally, I found the book perhaps a bit verbose and drawn out but that’s probably because as a Stoic I felt it was too limited a peek at Stoicism, but I loved the idea. As Marcus Aurelius wrote: “What could be more suited for me than that which is fated for me”.  As I have always found, adversity has it’s plans for you. Trust them, but fight like hell. 


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I’m really excited I came across these videos. I unfortunately have a packed day and do not have the time to write more, but I just wanted to finish by comparing the 8 Great Ideas from Stoicism with the 10 Themes of Stoicism we have covered here.

8 Great Ideas from Stoicism:

  1. It’s not events that cause us suffering, but our opinion about events.
  2. Our opinions are often unconscious but we can bring them to consciousness by asking ourselves questions.
  3. We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we react.
  4. Choose your perspective wisely.
  5. Habits are powerful.
  6. Fieldwork is vital.
  7. Virtue is sufficient for happiness.
  8. We have ethical obligations to our community.

10 Themes from Stoicism 

  1. Recognize what’s under your control and what’s not on your control. Don’t worry about what’s not in your control.
  2. Conform Your Will to The Divine Order of The Universe
  3. Understand Your Emotions. Don’t Repress (or assent to) All Emotions.
  4. Do The Right Thing No Matter The Cost
  5. Understand that events are not problematic; rather it’s your thinking that makes them so.
  6. Live With Compassion and Respect for Human Rights
  7. Cultivate Right Thinking Through Daily Activities like Meditation, Contemplation, Reflecting, and Journaling
  8. Understand The External World is Determined, but you have Internal Freedom to Choose Your Attitude Towards these Determined Events
  9. Calmness, Humility, Discipline, and Indifference to Pleasure and Pain
  10. Stop Whining; Turn Adversity into Advantage

Mind you, I’m sure neither of these authors meant for these lists to be exhaustive, but I think between this entry, and the 8 Great Ideas entry, you can really get a sense of what the Stoic way of living is. Mostly, I just wanted to line them up a bit so that I can access the information as a reference for my future writings.

If you enjoyed this, also check out Example Stoic Philosophy Regime.

P.S. I’ve very much still been and still am in knowledge attainment mode when it comes to Stoicism, but I am very much on this journey for life, and it’s a deep part of who I am, and a consistent part of my daily life. I look forward to writing much more on the topic of Stoicism in the coming months, and adding my own voice to the discussion in a more impactful manner.

I have many exciting things I look forward to sharing with you my dear reader.

Edit: just as an immediate reflection after publishing this, it’s amazing to read this and see just how much the Stoic worldview and Stoic mindset has changed my life in a relatively short period of time. There’s a reason I’m deeply passionate about Stoicism.

– Lawrence

Update 11/3/2014: Learn more about Stoic Philosophy from this excellent video series.

Stoic Philosophy by Phillip Hansten

I just watched the following video series, from Dr. Phillip Hansten, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington. Well executed and worth revisiting. (Even to listen to while you work).



 

Meditation Posture: Sit with Compassion

This is not the most exciting entry in the world, but if you meditate, or wish to – you want to assume the correct posture. Keep in mind, you will undoubtedly find yourself uncomfortable in the beginning and you can always sit comfortably in a chair; although, it would be hard for me to associate being seated in a chair with anything other than work – but perhaps that’s why I should try that [meditating while seated in a chair]. Also, as an anecdote about the evolution and fluidity of my own meditation posture, I initially only practiced guided meditations (youtube has many – this is my favorite) while lying down on the floor with a small pillow under my head. From there, I gradually started practicing meditation while seated comfortably in a cross legged position; however, I still sometimes enjoy lying down for guided meditations.

This morning I wanted to check out a few videos to improve my meditation posture because I know my seated posture could be better. I found the following four to be beneficial and wanted to share them here.

The first is nice and short and covers the basics of correct seated posture. It’s from a gentleman named Jordan Mallah.


The next video is a little more in depth, and goes over some of the different options for your legs and feet – among other things. This is from a woman named Mindah-Lee.


This video is a great recap of all and is probably the video I would suggest viewing if you only watched one.

I enjoyed seeing the cushion set up here, and have been occasionally using a cushion under my bum, but am definitely jealous of this set up now that I’ve seen how comfortable it looks; time to step my cushion game up! (But I should note that I don’t always practice meditation in my home, and many times have a rocky outcrop on the beach I sit on, so this level of luxury isn’t always going to be possible).


I also enjoyed this video, which is a bit more general on meditation itself, but provides some good reminders on the mental state of meditating (observation of breath), and the mind body connection.


It’s important to note that my meditation practice and my mindfulness practice is something that I carry into all areas of my life. So, checking in with myself in the present moment and centering myself through my breath is something that I do even while walking, or just mid day. Hopefully, I can increasingly incorporate better awareness of my physical posture into this as well, which I expect will happen naturally as I become more accustomed to what proper seated meditation posture feels like.

Also, this is not about trying. It’s not about forcing yourself to sit still. It’s about self-love, compassion and inner peace – true relaxation. Meditation is an act of self-care, so don’t feel as if you need to “try harder”. Just be.

And there are a lot of varying and even contradictory messages out there, some people tell you to close your eyes, some tell you to allow a soft half-gaze. I implore you to play with what’s best for you and switch things up. I enjoy meditating with my eyes open as well as with my eyes closed, and I follow my intuition in deciding whats best for me. You should listen to your body with compassionate self-awareness. So, just to see how this feels, try out the practice of using a very slight smile by turning up the corners of your mouth slightly. Experience what this shift feels like. Feel the shift in contentment and any additional sense of wellbeing this brings you.


Bonus: Self-Compassion Meditations from Kristin Neff

Here are ome great guided self-compassion meditation audios, from Kristin Neff, a leading expert on the science of self-compassion. I’m currently reading her book, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself up and Leave Insecurity Behind and practiced the first [Affectionate Breathing] of the six-guided self-compassion meditation audios this morning and will enjoy the rest again each morning over the next week.

Note: I wanted to include these here because I feel it’s very important to practice sitting with compassionate awareness for our bodies. Particularity as you listen to her Bodyscan audio, you will get a sense of what this [sitting with compassionate awareness] means. And if you only listened to one, try this [Bodyscan]. It’s easy to think of meditation and get the picture in our heads of a Buddhist monk, someone we perceive as having complete discipline – but that’s not what meditation is.

I really admire her [Kristin Neff’s] work, and am fortunate to have discovered her contributions to the world. There’s just something very endearing to me about her openhearted and compassionate disposition. Big, big heart. (I’m pretty sure just listening to her speak has a relaxing effect on my own heart.)

Here’s a short little video on her advice for being kind to yourself:

A Meditation Infographic from Happify

As a happify user, I was delighted to come across this meditation infographic in my assigned tasks today, created by meditation ambassador and mindfulness expert (and ABC news anchor) Dan Harris. As an aside – check out this video to see his story and how meditation changed his life.

Enjoy the infographic. SO MUCH good info here.

meditation-happify

If you want to learn about mindfulness meditation, check out this post of mine.

The Importance of Mindfulness and The Connection Between Mindfulness and Meditation

If I would have tried to conjure up an impression of mindfulness in my head a couple years ago I would have imagined an affluent woman in her sixties, drinking tea and looking out over her oceanfront view, with a warm and contented look on her face.

Today, I’ve come to know better. Mindfulness isn’t some far off, esoteric destination only available to those who meditate and live on a higher plane. No, mindfulness is simply the practice of observing yourself and consciously focusing on your emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

Wikipedia defines mindfulness as the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices…

Now, the interesting thing about this [this definition] is that I personally came to understand and know mindfulness not as a result of study, but as a result of practicing meditation. And when I began meditating, I did not even know this was going to happen. I wanted inner peace. And meditation helped me connect to that – but more importantly, I became aware that there was something within me more still than my thoughts, and I became aware of what it felt like to transcend that [my thoughts and feelings].

As a result, I became more self-aware. I realized when my feelings were making me feel poorly. I began to automatically notice on walks when I wasn’t being attentive to myself – when I was out of touch with the present moment. And I would focus on my breath, and I would return to that stillness. And I would feel better. I felt better because I could stop identifying with whatever I was thinking or feeling, and I could check back in with myself, with the eternal part of my soul that’s always present and connected – whether my mind is or not.

Mind you (pardon the pun), I’ve never read a book on mindfulness. And I have a lot of work to do to improve on this practice – namely, I need to not only practice the awareness of my body, thoughts, and feelings – but I need to consciously choose to practice the intentional non-judgement, and acceptance of these sensations – because for me personally, I typically go straight into self-talk, and other cognitive behavioral practices so that I can “optimize” how I feel. And while I don’t think this is a terrible thing to do, I think the act of acceptance and non-judgmental awareness will help me let go of some of these [less positive] feelings with greater ease.

So, this morning I wanted to look into mindfulness and I watched handful of videos, the best of which I have included below for you, my dear reader.

Sam Harris: Mindfulness is Powerful

This is an important video to watch, because aside from Sam Harris describing the purpose and value of mindfulness, he asserts that mindfulness should not be viewed as a religious experience, but rather as a bridge we can use to close the gap that exists between science and spirituality. I think disconnecting meditation from Buddhism makes it more approachable and less seemingly unobtainable. The power to transcend ourselves is truly within us all.

…the sense of self that we all carry around from day to day is an illusion. And cutting through that illusion I think is actually more important than stress reduction or any of the other conventional benefits that are accurately ascribed to mindfulness.

The enemy of mindfulness and really of any meditation practice is being lost in thought, is to be thinking without knowing that you’re thinking. Now the problem is not thoughts themselves. We need to think. We need to think to do almost anything that makes us human – to reason, to plan, to have social relationships, to do science. Thinking is indispensable to us but most of us spend every moment of our waking lives thinking without knowing that we’re thinking. And this automaticity is a kind of scrim thrown over at the present moment through which we view everything. And it’s distorting of our lives. It’s distorting of our emotions. It engineers our unhappiness in every moment because most of what we think is quite unpleasant. We’re judging ourselves, we’re judging others, we’re worrying about the future, we’re regretting the past, we’re at war with our experience in subtle or coarse ways. And much of this self-talk is unpleasant and diminishing our happiness in every moment. And so meditation is a tool for cutting through that.


Dan Harris: Hack Your Brain’s Default Mode with Meditation

Dead on. Selected quotes and citations follow:

There was a study out of Harvard that showed that short, daily doses of meditation can literally grow the grey matter areas of your brain having to do with self-awareness. and compassion and shrink the grey matter associated with stress. 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/

There was also a study out of Yale that looked at what’s called the default mode network of the brain, it’s a connected series of brain regions that are active during most of our waking hours, when we’re doing that thing that human beings do all the time, which is obsessing about ourselves, thinking about the past, thinking about the future, doing anything but being focused on what’s happening right now. Meditators not only turn off the default mode network of their brain while they’re meditating but even when they’re not meditating. In other words, meditators are setting a new default mode. And what’s that default mode? They’re focused on what’s happening right now.

From an article on the study out of Yale:

“Meditation’s ability to help people stay in the moment has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years,” Brewer said. “Conversely, the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect. This gives us some nice cues as to the neural mechanisms of how it might be working clinically.”

And finally, Dan Harris’ closing words on happiness as a controllable choice:

The common assumption that we have – and it may be subconscious – is that our happiness really depends on external factors: how was our childhood, have we won the lottery recently, did we marry well, did we marry at all – but in fact, meditation suggests that happiness is actually a skill, something you can train, just as you train your body in the gym – it’s a self-generated thing, and that’s a really radical notion. It doesn’t mean that external circumstances aren’t going to impact your happiness – it doesn’t mean that you are not going to be subject to the vagaries of an impermanent, entropic universe – it just means you are going to be able to navigate this with a little more ease.


Chade-Meng Tan, on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence: 5 Lessons

If you want to learn more in depth on mindfulness, I suggest watching this full talk, but Cade-Meng Tan, delivered to an audience at Google, but at least watch from 24:12 to 31:50

If you do not wish to watch those seven minutes, here are my five takeaways from that portion of Chade-Meng Tan’s talk.

The Ability to Turn Emotions Off

There are a couple of very useful things, and they’re so useful that the degree of self-awareness that you can gain can create profound changes in your life. The first example is that if you’re able to perceive an emotion the moment it is arising, that gives you the power to turn it off if you want to. It gives you choice. Therefore, you have a choice of, “Hmm, I feel anger rising. Should I be angry or should I be not?” You can choose. I mean, there are situations where I chose to be angry, and because I was getting ripped off [to be purposefully assertive]. I figured the best reaction is to put that out to other people. And the situations where you’re “Nah, I don’t want to be angry, especially since she’s my boss. Let’s turn it off.” So you have a choice. The first thing, already, this is life-changing. If you have to ability to turn off anger. Already, it changes your life.

How Self-Awareness and Emotional Awareness Translates into Self-Knowledge, and Opportunity

Another example is that if you have a lot of strong self-awareness, emotional awareness, the emotional awareness translates into self-assessment. You get to know yourself a bit better. You get to know your resources. This is what I’m good at, this is what I’m bad at. These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses. This is what I really like to do, this is what makes me happy, and so on. And the effect of that is that once you are able to figure out, quote on quote your “deepest values and motivations”, then you know what opportunities to look out for. If you did not have the insight, the opportunity would just come and go. However, because you had the insight, you catch the opportunity when it’s there. Therefore, you’re always successful. And then people will think you’re very lucky. I mean, you’re lucky, but at the same time, you’re there to catch your opportunities and you’re able to catch opportunities because you have deep knowledge of self.

Making the Shift from Existential to Experiential

There’s a third one, which is even more profound, which is this: if you experience an emotion, we like to think that our emotions are existential experiences. What does that mean? We like to think the emotion itself, is us. And it reflects in the language that you use. For example, we say, “I am angry. I am sad. I am happy.” So the emotion becomes me. I become the emotion. However, as the power of your mind, the sharpness of mind, your resolution, your vividness becomes stronger over time. You discover something about a process of emotion and then you read an emotion in a very subtle way that has a profound change in your life. And that profound change is this: is going from existential to experiential, which means going from “I am angry” to “I’m experiencing anger. I’m experiencing happiness, or sadness, or whatever.” What does that change? Now it changes from “I am this, this is me” to “My mind is like a sky.” Then emotions are the clouds occupying the mind, but they’re not the mind. So that’s a powerful shift.

Separating Emotion into a Physiological Experience – Changing Your Perception

But wait, it gets better. The way it gets better, which is – there is another step you can go. As your attention becomes even more refined, you discover something else, beyond being experiential. You discover that the process of emotion, the experience of emotion is physiological. You experience emotions in the body. Every emotion has a bodily correlate. And then you discover something. You discover that painful emotions are not that different from painful feelings in the body. For example, I hurt my hand. Ow! And then I know this is pain, I know this is unpleasant, but the pain is not me. It is a sensation in my body. Having that perception changes everything. Because it’s not me, I can do things about it. I can take Tylenol. I can massage. I can put in ice. Or I can ignore it. Or I can experience it mindfully. Or I can just eat ice cream and forget all about it. And so on. There are things I can do because this experience is not me.

Using Mindfulness to Practice the Habit [intention] of Loving Kindness

The first habit that is very conducive to being socially skillful is the habit of kindness, or loving-kindness. That is a habit of looking at any human being, anyone you’ve never met before. Looking at any human being, my first thought is, “I want this person to be happy.” I want this person to be happy: that’s just it. Already, you can imagine if you have that mental habit coming effortlessly, it changes everything. You go into a meeting room; you look at everybody, you think, “I want all these people to be happy.” It reflects unconsciously in your body, your face, your language, your tone of voice, your facial expression. Because it reflects unconsciously, it’s picked up unconsciously by the other person. Their feeling, their perception is, “I like this person. I don’t know why. This Meng guy, I really like him. Maybe it’s his good looks. I don’t know.” [laughter] But it’s not just the good looks, it’s because I’m wishing for this person to be happy. I want Tara to be happy, and Tara can sense it unconsciously. In a situation like meetings and so on, if you have that mental habit all the time, people want to work with you. Then you find yourself becoming successful. You’re not clear why. But it’s this; it’s just simple things like that.

Note: You should read Chade-Meng Tan’s book Search Inside Yourself, I will be!


Start Your Own Mindfulness Practice

The following three videos will allow you to practice what mindfulness feels like. Start with the first and build up to the third. As you learn what this feels like, you’ll be able to do each without a video guide; although, I am still a big fan of practicing guided meditation on a regular basis.

The Quick Mindful Check in

5 Min Mindfulness Check in

Guided Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Opening The Door: The Patterns of Fate, Serendipity, and Happiness

I talk about serendipity a lot.

I just came across a post shared by modern day expeditionary, soul-searcher, and human philanthropist Dave Cornthwaite. It’s written by a man named Matt Ridings, and it tells the story of how he [Matt] felt compelled to reach out to Dave, and how the two subsequently became friends.

You definitely want to read The Patterns of Fate, Serendipity, and Happiness.

As much as I read – when it comes to online content, I’m underwhelmed the majority of the time. Not so in this instance. The big lesson is that Matt not only trusted and believed in serendipity, but he took action to listen to that feeling within him. This trust was the seed that intervened to open the door for fate to make it a reality. He soon was face to face with Dave over dinner.

I’m reminded of the obscure Steve Jobs interview where Jobs tells the camera about how most people don’t pick up the phone – they never ask.

This is really relevant to me because I’ve recently set a goal to become friends with my intellectual heroes. Not that heroes is the right word, but I think in the past I held these people up as somehow out of reach. Today, my vision and my goals are larger than ever. I know I’m going to need these people in my corner. I’m going to need mentors, I’m going to need to enhance my peer-set to align my relationships more closely with my mission, vision, and purpose.

Coming across a story like Matt’s is such a crystal clear reminder that we should all have the faith in serendipity to be confident that fate just may line up for us. The universe has lots of possibilities in store for you that you will never even open the door to. These limits you have are a human construct. If you’re going to take your life to the next level, you need to surround yourself with exceptional people, with passionate people. Don’t keep yourself on some sub-level below those whom you admire. They are passionate about what they do and so what they do to inspire people, and many of them would love to connect with someone who shares their passion and their vision.

While someone like Bill Gates or Elon Musk might be out of reach for obvious reasons, I bet if you wanted to reach out to and connect with one of Space X’s top scientists or to one of Microsoft’s top engineers you very well could. On a sad note, which I have to publish for obvious reasons, I was having lunch in Manhattan Beach two years ago and met two Space X Engineers who invited me to come by for a tour, and I never did : / – today I would not make that mistake. I know that when a door presents itself, I owe it to myself to open it and walk through if I can.

There’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be reaching out to the people who inspire you. Not every person will reply, but those who do will make your efforts worth it to an exponential degree. This is how successful, no-limits people operate.

How many strangers have moved you in the last year? How many times have you been inspired? How many of those people have you reached out to. Do you have a dream? Who in your city has done something similar? Who do you want to be friends with? Read a book that changed you life? Fire off a letter to the author, start looking up email addresses, create opportunities, and for chrissakes, seize them.

If you trust in serendipity, you can recognize the patterns of fate, serendipity, and happiness that present themselves to all of us. If you don’t knock on the door, no one can answer it.

P.S. Watch this video from Dave Cornthwaite and envision yourself reaching out to someone like this and having dinner with them.

The Rise of Black Wolf: Learning From My Spirit Animal and Finding Your Own

I love coming across things that impart purpose and meaning to my life. Without running the risk of sounding overly egocentric, I think in this case, we can all take a lesson or two (or many more) from nature.

Here’s the opening sequence from The Discovery Channel’s The Rise of Black Wolf:

He is Black Wolf, a two year old loner who recently broke from his pack. No wolf wants to be alone, it’s too hard to make a living without allies, but Black Wolf is willing to take the risk for a higher-status, a better territory, and a chance to breed. The urge to breed with his own kind drives him onward – until he stands before a new valley ruled by a mighty pack.

Their presence draws him closer, but this is dangerous ground. Here, conflict is a way of life. High rank and breeding rights are often achieved through force – many die young. But he is no ordinary wolf. Instead of strength and aggression, he’s armed with cunning, and he brings his own recipe for success. His entire young life has led to this moment.

In the past I was more driven by my Hawk totem / spirit energy, and in my experience every spirit animal has it’s drawbacks as well as it’s powers, but now the rise of my own Black Wolf in my spirit is taking charge. It’s a beautiful thing to connect with and embrace your own metaphoric animal energy and spirit animal identity. I’m far from an expert on totem animals, or spirit animals, but I believe there is power there; there’s something in identifying with the nature of an animal and understanding it that can help you uncover your own strengths, abilities, and weaknesses so you can capitalize on your potential. Remember, animals do not have the worldly baggage and societal limitations that humans do, as such, they provide a window into the soul unlike any other.

The Rise of Black Wolf Documentary

I hope you watch the full thing, it’s fascinating. The ending made me cry, spoiler alert – do not watch the following clip if you do not want to spoil it.

The Rise of Black Wolf Ending: Spoiler Alert

Totally made me cry (watching the full thing will explain why).

Note: You can also buy the DVD, The Rise of Black Wolf on Amazon.

Finding Your Spirit Animal

I like this page about finding your spirit / totem animal, and remember – google is your friend, but beware of bullshit ‘how to find your spirit animal’ quizzes; although, the one here was accurate for me (after the fact that I knew from my own intuition, which leads me to think it is potentially reliable). But I definitely recommend trusting your intuition largely here [in discovering and understanding the meaning and purpose of your spirit animal energy].

Here’s another great page on finding your spirit animal as well as the difference between a spirit animal and an animal totem.

Update: Missing Content on Black Wolf’s Secret Never Before Revealed Life as a Casanova

This is unreal. So, I wanted to watch it over again as I made dinner and I pulled it up on youtube, but then something interesting happened. I noticed a section on Black Wolf’s ‘personal life’ that I definitely did not notice the first time I watched it. I checked against the version I embedded here and sure enough the embedded version was missing a small but highly important section. My immediate instinct was that it was censored or edited because it was aired in a conservative country. So I popped a phrase of the subtitle into Google, and it turns out it was aired in Indonesia – a country notorious for television and internet censorship (The Indonesian government does not even allow kissing to be shown on TV). Perhaps the censors felt Black Wolf might be a bad influence…you tell me. The omitted content can be seen in the following sections of the alternate upload, which was broken into sections.

MISSING CONTENT: 9:16 – 10:00

Missing Content: 0:00 – 0:38

Ironically, the ‘censored’ content is perhaps one of the entertaining tales Black Wolf has to offer [transcription follows]:

So when a dark, handsome, and very available stranger shows up, what’s a young wolf to do? For the rest of 2003, Black Wolf blossoms into his new role as Casanova, wooing females from his base of operations on the park road. The charcoal female especially finds him irresistible, pretty soon she’s spending more time with him and less with her father’s pack. Typically, a couple like this forms a pair bond and starts it’s own pack, but it turns out Black Wolf is not a one woman guy; he seems content to stay right where he is, cavorting with multiple druid females and mating with them on the sly – but bonding with none. He passes another year without commitment – free of any responsibility. Eventually such behavior has consequences; in 2003, Black Wolf becomes a father.

Like I said, many, many lessons to learn from nature : D

 

Poetry: Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing to Me

Note: Explicit content

These feelings last about as long as the song does
But hear me out
Look, we both know how much trying to be right wronged us
And I know the truth now –
The truth about how every love starts sublime but doesn’t stay that way
But I needn’t remind you

‘Cause I’ll admit it too,
At the middle and the end, it was hell to pay
Thankfully, I’m doing pretty well today
And I’ll take ownership for my sins
‘Cause I threw back at you twice the pain you put me through
And I made up for it by putting myself through plenty on my own too
But I needn’t remind you

Because you just can’t forget can you
But hear me out

I can feel everything again now
So don’t tell me you’re dead inside,
Don’t tell me I killed the pieces of you that loved me,
When you barely ever saw the best of me

G-d you made such a mess of me

Maybe that’s terrible to say,
But I’m a new man now –
I’m better in every single way
Yeah, for some reason I just haven’t had a bad day
But anyways –

I’ve been a good man
Hell, my only rebound was a Christian girl’s hand
And I even gave up private browsing
Because pretending isn’t all that arousing

But of course I already tried this with you
And we both know how it ended
Because the last time I succeeded in selling myself to you,
I only sold myself out

But hear me out

I just want to fuck you like it’s Christmas
I want to fuck you like the guy you respect too much to tell him what you don’t like
I want to fuck you like it’s your last straight fuck and you’re going dyke
I want to fuck you like Barack fucked Michelle on election night

I want to fuck you like it’s our first night in the White House
I want to fuck you like I just got out of the big house
I want to do it like they did in Vesuvius as it rained hot lava and the animals screamed,
I want to fuck you like you’re you and I’m James Deen

Please don’t think me perverse
It’s just that my self-esteem left our relationship in a hearse
And trust me,
The thousand times you said no,
G-d they still hurt

I miss what I barely ever had
I miss what you’re going to give to some lucky cad
And G-dddamnit I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mad about it

So tell me what I’m to do
Because I’m left feeling like I’ll have to do to someone else what I can’t do to you
And maybe she and I will watch a movie too
And we’ll laugh over cheeseburgers,
And sure, she won’t be you –
But what else am I to do

‘Cause I know how Marvin felt
I need that feeling
I finally understand that call for sexual healing
I’m not looking for a simple lay,
I’ve got a debt to collect that your body doesn’t want to pay

But I don’t want to be the older guy with a score to settle
Playing the dark, sexy, and brooding card to pull a girl out of a bar
So, I’ll meditate and I’ll breathe
And I’ll hope this takes care of the rest
Because I’ve never really been the type that likes it rough
But baby you did a bad bad thing to me and I’m just not sure this poem is going to be enough


I actually wrote this poem while listening to the James Morrison song below, but once I was finishing it [writing the poem], the Chris Isaak lyric “Bad, bad thing” came into my head out of nowhere, which really just perfectly captures the feeling and closes the poem. This is the first time I’ve ever written overtly sexual poetry, but at 29, and having gained mastery over pretty much every single other vice of mine, I don’t feel uncouth about it. As an artist I wouldn’t be authentic if I censored my feelings. Ultimately, as the poem’s closing alludes pretty directly to – I’m sublimating the desire into this poem – or at least attempting to! haha

Real Life Inspiration: Prince Ea on The State of The World, Technological Disconnection, and Love

Note: I first want to preface this with the declaration that I do not subscribe to the cult of personality. Particularly, in a day and age where – as Prince Ea says: “Our role models today – sixty years ago would have been examples of what not to be”.

I simply do not believe in placing people on a pedestal (hero worship) because I believe that living things are inherently equal – and while that’s an entirely separate topic, the point I want to drive home to you is that you are as worthy of your love as your heroes are; you are as capable as they are. This is why I occasionally highlight some of my role models under the heading of Real Life Inspiration, because we should not worship people, nor compare ourselves to them, but rather – we should be inspired by their choices and their message, which should empower our own sense of choice and control over our lives. I’d like to think Prince Ea would cosign this message.


Hip-hop artist and poet Prince Ea grew up in St. Louis “I grew up in the worst part of the worst city in the world – statistically; the Eastside of St. Louis”. Having graduated with a degree in anthropology, Prince Ea said he combines anthropology with his music to provide social analysis. His messages are refreshing and they echo insights and truths that lie behind the facade of society – the deeper truths many people don’t see.

Where he is – his internal state and emotional resonance – that’s a beautiful place to be.

After gaining increased exposure with the following video on the state of the world, Prince Ea was recently featured on Glenn Beck, which can be viewed here (the video is completely non-political and focused on Prince Ea’s message of Love). The interview really showcases how grounded Prince Ea is. We can all learn from his messages. Below I’ve included three of Prince Ea’s best video’s to date. Pay attention to what he is saying.

Prince Ea on The State of The World

It’s easy to dismiss this kind of thing as another video designed to go viral, but there are so many things he says that are just completely true. One of my favorite lines might be pride is at an all time high, humility is at an all time low.


 

Prince Ea on Technological Disconnection

This youtube comment a viewer posted to the video says it all:

It makes me sick to my stomach. Try MeetUp instead. Get out and connect. Touch each other. Look each other in the eye, and pay attention to the other person’s soul. 

We are electric beings that were meant to connect–not connect through electric devices but to each other by touch and proximity.


 

Prince Ea on Love

The lessons Prince Ea offers on love are brilliant. Many people never discover these truths, or only do after years and years of pain.

See, the truth is, we have forgotten what love is. Our ideas about love come from storybooks, romantic comedies, popular songs, facebook memes – and they all show this fuzzy romantic type of love, and as you are aware, in your own life, these ideas have led to more anxiety and pain then true pleasure [fullfilment] and happiness… because these ideas themselves are flawed, they are based on ownership and selfishness “You are my bae, my boo, my sweetheart; I love you – but only if you’re with me”. That’s a possessive type of love, that’s a love with strings attached, that’s an impure type of love.

Ask yourself this question: who do you hate? It’s probably somebody you used to love right.

Thinking that somebody can fix you or that you can fix somebody else is just plain wrong. See, love is an inside job. In order to love others we must first love ourselves. We have to mature in a way that we can take care of our own emotional needs –  we can help ourselves – and that way, we accept the flaws in our partner because we have already accepted the flaws in ourselves.

There’s no more anger or controlling clinginess in this type of love, there’s a relaxed acceptance, there’s kindness, there’s tenderness, there’s vulnerability.

And when you are reflecting your true self, your true soul, you’re no longer reflecting anger, pain, your past failures, and your ego – that’s when love can blossom because the souls only expression is pure love.

And I think when two people, when two souls come to this understanding – that’s rare, that’s beautiful, and that’s something we should all strive for

So word to the wise, if you don’t know how to love, you will ultimately destroy it.

 

Sage, sage words. This is one of those instances where I get a strange sense of reassurance at the fact that someone else has independently arrived at the same conclusions I have. If you watched the Glenn Beck interview with Prince Ea, you’ll have seen Glen Beck ask Prince Ea, ‘Where is this coming from?’, to which Prince Ea answered:

It comes from inside, it comes from me looking inside of myself… It just comes from me sitting alone, and looking inward at what is the solution, what makes me happy, looking at the world, what makes me happy, and it’s love it’s peace it’s compassion, the most basic idea that permeate all religions – but not a lot of people seem to adopt; it came from me looking inside, from introspection. 

In my own relationship with inner peace and unconditional, abundant love, I too found this truth looking inward.


Be sure to follow Prince Ea on facebook and carry his message forward in your life. Be the love that you are – the love you wish to see in the world.

I’ll leave you with two more soundbites from Prince Ea (via Glenn Beck):

I’m an artist that wants to connect with people’s hearts because I think the individual is everything. If you want to change – if you’re in a movie theater and you don’t like the movie, you don’t go up to the movie and start beating up the projection on the screen – you go and change the film. So I believe that in order to have external peace, we have to have internal; peace in ourselves before any change is possible.

I honestly think that – that within everyone – that pure love, that pure consciousness is who we really are. I think that finding out who you really are is the key.