Round

I don’t know how the world ends,
But I think this is how it begins
As I walk outside, and whisper to the squirrels rustling beneath the deck: “It’s okay, I’m a friend.”

And I know they feel me because I feel them
Things have changed
Welcome to the movie of our lives
Suddenly, I see it
Easy to zoom out but its painful to zoom in,
Though the time for glossing over stuff is done

Tell people you love them:
Right now I’m telling you, I love you
We’re all saints

This is not the time for crimes, large and petty
It’s a time for generosity, for giving – and forgiving
And I think it’s bringing us together in some Nerudian way

But it hurts to zoom in,
Becuase it’s too close to home


Ps. This mix and others by this same DJ have been really holding me down tight. That and a good cup of yogi breathe deep tea. But most of all, Family.

Happiness Demystified: Synthetic Happiness and Your Blueprint

Yesterday, I read the transcript for a Ted talk from 2004, titled, “The surprising Science of Happiness“, and in this talk, Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, basically says that we have two ways of producing happiness: getting what we want, which he calls “Natural happiness”, and changing our minds, creating what Gilbert calls “Synthetic happiness”.

An example of synthetic happiness Gilbert gives is Sir Thomas Brown, who wrote in 1642, “I am the happiest man alive. I have that in me that can convert poverty to riches, adversity to prosperity. I am more invulnerable than Achilles; fortune hath not one place to hit me.”

The speaker calls this happiness synthetic rather than natural, because it is decided – not by events or circumstances, but by a kind of Stoic force of Will.

Now, most people do not posses this degree of omnipotence over their own programming, their own “reality”, and I think Gilbert provides the reasoning for this, here:

“…in our society, we have a strong belief that synthetic happiness is of an inferior kind.

Why do we have that belief? Well, it’s very simple. What kind of economic engine would keep churning if we believed that not getting what we want could make us just as happy as getting it?”

This matrix we live in is complex; there are a lot of forces at play from within and without, and society is, no doubt, the mirror we look in. This informs our scripts, our stories, which brings me to the second piece of the puzzle.

We think we are unhappy because of what we don’t have, but we’re really unhappy because life isn’t how we think it should be.

Today I was watching an inspirational Tony Robbins talk, and while there were a lot of great ideas in it from the start, there was something that really stood out to me, which was really well articulated. And while I’ve listened to Tony Robbins since I was a teenager, this idea struck me as a newer concept within his paradigmatic mode of teaching.

Here’s the core of it:

“If you and I want to know what it takes to be happy, then we have to understand what our current blueprint is. And what do I mean by blueprint; well, we have a story in our head of how life’s supposed to be. Some people’s story is you work hard in school, you become really great, you’re a nice person, you’re a good person, and you grow up and you take care of yourself, and you find the ideal man, and you fall in love, and you have a white picket fence, and you have three children, and you live happily ever after.

Somebody else’s story was – the old story was – you work really hard in school, you excel in college, you go to work for a big corporation, and you move up through the ranks until you’re the president or chairman of the company and you become successful and respected throughout life. These are old stories, old archetypes, and many don’t exist anymore. 

But there’s still one archetype that’s really prevalent, and that’s the idea that to be happy, you really have to achieve a lot in life.”

“I’m now going to show you what the formula for happiness is. And it’s real simple. I’m going to reveal it to you, so you don’t ever forget it. And it’s real simple. And what it is, is, whenever you’re happy with an area of your life, it’s because, right now, your current life experience, – I call it your LC, your Life Conditions, the conditions of your life, in that area, match or are equal to your blueprint or story, your belief about how life should be in that area.”

“Let’s see if we can find the formula for unhappiness. If the formula for happiness is be able to meet your expectations or exceed them – that really makes you excited – but to be happy you have to got to at least meet it, doesn’t have to be perfect but if you generally are meeting what you expect you want from your life in that area, you feel good: life conditions match blueprint, feel good.”

“Here’s the formula for unhappiness,

When your life conditions, the way you’re living your life today, does not match – it doesn’t equal – your blueprint meet your blueprint, your story of how it’s supposed to be, then you’re going to have disappointment, frustration, or pain.

If you’re life is way different than you think it’s supposed to be, you can have enormous pain. If it’s a little different, you might feel stressed.”

“You can not have your economic needs met and still be okay, but when you have an idea, this IS what my need is, and I did the wrong thing; my life doesn’t match how I’m supposed to be: that’s when people get a little crazy.” 

“You might find yourself really angry and frustrated because you have a different story about how life’s supposed to be than how it is.”

“You only have two choices in life. If life doesn’t match your blueprint, you either have to change your life or change or, in order for you to be happy – if you can’t change your life – you’re going to have to change your blueprint. And usually in life it requires a little of each. And if you change your life and your blueprint, you can have an extraordinary life.”

This is powerful knowledge. Happiness from getting what we want isn’t the only way.

We each have a wellspring of synthetic happiness available to us – the happiness from changing our minds, from adjusting our blueprints.

English writer and wordsmith Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once wrote:

“It seems to be the fate of all man to seek all his consolations in futurity.”

And we all do this.

We think, I’ll be happy when.

This is no way to live. The time for consolation, for solace, for peace, is now.

Remember, the ego is the part of you that wants things to be or not to be a certain way. We think we are unhappy because of what we don’t have, but we’re really unhappy because life isn’t how we think it should be.

The old adage rings true, happiness if reality minus expectations, but so few of us actually take ownership of our expectations or even really examine their effect on us.

Your life is too short to suffer unnecessarily – even for a moment.

Examine your expectations, your blueprint, your story for how life should be and make today the day you stop letting these scripts in your mind limit your happiness.

At Thirty: How I’ve Shaped my Disposition

I turned thirty Saturday.

The last time I felt this much psychic shock and bewilderment was after my first time making the angel with four wings. I was fairly young, but I remember feeling more alive, more at one with humanity, as if I had somehow deepened my sense of belonging.

Now a new chapter of life has begun, and I again feel markedly different. My twenties have been put to rest and all the fears they contained have been allayed by the reality that, like all fears, most never came true.

Of the fears that came to pass, I was – and am – no worse off, but, rather, better, stronger for having passed through the crucibles fate placed before me.

Some of the things I went through in my twenties hurt terribly and I scarcely felt I possessed the resources to survive, but I know better today – for I see the world through eyes that have seen much, and I know the depth of my soul as only one who has suffered does.

I have survived heartbreak and its aftermath. I have been scared and alone, and in times dimmer than I’d care to recollect – but I’ve never forgotten my dreams. I’ve kept faith in something bigger and brighter than my world when its felt small, and this has kept me whole, but I was not always this surefooted.

If I could pass on a message to my younger self, it would be:

Look inside.

You spend your twenties looking outside for answers, defining yourself based on the world around you, but eventually you learn the world has no answer equal to the silent, still voice of G-d rustling in the quietude of your soul. You are everything you have been looking for, and it is you. No one can complete you. They might help teach you how to love yourself, but ultimately the responsibility is yours.

I would be lying if I said my experience was limited to my own mistakes; my growth was seeded by those who left me breadcrumbs, people like Marcus Aurelius, Carl Jung, and Alan Watts. These spiritual grandfathers taught me that my world could be born of my disposition – rather than the inverse, which is the case for most people living today.

Disposition could be the defining word of my turning thirty. For at thirty the cement has begun to harden. Not to say you are stuck – but, in large, you possess a definite outlook at thirty, a defined character. The notion of disposition as something unique and inherent to all living beings (for even a dog has a disposition) is something I’ve only become cognizant of this past year. At thirty I am naturally mindful of my own disposition, and acutely aware of the disposition of others.

My Websters Dictionary defines disposition as, “The predominant or prevailing tendency of ones spirits; a characteristic attitude.”

I think of disposition as, the quality of baseline anxiety or peace a person has, resulting from their beliefs about the world. Maybe this belief-centered basis is why little outside love, the spiritual, and psychedelics has the power to alter our disposition. Perhaps Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – but even then, ones disposition is difficult to become aware of, much less alter.

Merriam-Websters defines disposition as, “The usual attitude or mood of a person or animal”. Viewed in this light, you can see how paramount disposition is in determining your happiness and wellbeing.

As Martha Washington stated: “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstances”.

My disposition changed greatly in the course of my twenties, specifically the second half, and, naturally, there were times when it was clouded by a fog of transitory emotions. Times when my entire being was disrupted through loss and adversity, but, ultimately, I returned to my default set point, just as the sea finds it’s level between the ebb and flow of the changing tides, for change is constant and the future unclear, unwritten.

Aside from accepting that flux is guaranteed, studying Stoic philosophy (a passion of mine) and adhering to Stoic principles and practices has not only altered my disposition but insulated it from the forces of change.

Note: if you’re not familiar with Stoicism, do explore: here and here.

Beyond the ancient and timeless wisdom of the Stoics, I’ve altered my disposition through mindfulness and meditation.

And of course, if you are so bold and so desire to alter the beliefs your disposition is founded upon, there is always the two trips of love and psychedelics – the latter of which I cannot in good conscience recommend – for obvious reasons, but I have heard when done in a safe setting and in a non-recreational context (i.e., you are at home, have done all your research, have someone sober nearby, have meditated and set your intention beforehand, have a candle and incense lit, comfy clothes on, water, and a journal to write in after) psychedelics can provide an expansive and therapeutic space, in which you can shift your perception, for the better, in ways that wouldn’t be possible without first altering it.

Of course, that’s not at all necessary but I’d feel dishonest had I omitted it. Just beware: psychedelics are a double edged sword and the dangers of their abuse, specifically from a mental health perspective, can far outweigh their purported benefits. Don’t think you can just go drop acid and you’ll be happy afterwards. It’s not that simple; although, if you are going to explore your inner world, I recommend you do all your research and approach it with the same reverence a shaman would. G-d help me if someone reads this and does something stupid or dangerous – please don’t. I do not view psychedelics as recreational fodder and I’ve partaken no more than a handful of times – beginning in my teens. At thirty, I feel no desire to use them again – but who knows, something major could change that, so, knowing their power, they remain in the far reaches of my toolkit – the day-to-day tools being: mindfulness, meditation, Stoicism – and spirituality.

At thirty, having a belief in G-d is one of my greatest assets. I won’t get into a theological dissertation, beyond stating that you can conceive of G-d in any manner you wish and in doing so you will give yourself a great gift – a gift modern, mainstream society increasingly denies its followers in favor of more vapid and commercialized idols. We all worship something. For some it’s money, looks, status, and other things bound to decay in time. For me, it’s the mysterious; the possibility; the unknown; serendipity; chance; the magic in my soul and the sacredness of my connection to it.

Finally, the habit of reading and writing has changed my disposition. I’ve published over two-hundred entries in the four years I’ve been writing on 7Saturdays, some quite transformative. Writing is therapeutic and beyond that I’ve written the things I needed to read, the things that allowed me to choose a stance true to myself.

In regards to reading, I read constantly. For most of my twenties, I read only non-fiction and only insofar as I hoped to better myself with the best pop-self-help books; however, today the non-fiction I read is primarily comprised of ancient religious and philosophical texts, and more modern books on psychology and literature – with an occasional biography of someone whom I greatly admire thrown in, so as to remind me of my duty to make my life count.

Given my passion and plans as a novelist, fiction accounts for the majority of my reading – thankfully, I love it. The best [fiction] always being that which alters or heals me.

Of the books I read this year, the most life altering and healing have been:

Another Country, James Baldwin
Home, Toni Morrison
The Death of Ivan Illyich, Leo Tolstoy
Fountainhead, Ayn Rand

But at the end of the day, you don’t need to read books to be whole. You don’t need to do a damn thing to try and change yourself. Simply taking control of the conversation in your head will do wonders for you. Learn more: here, and here. Books are, however, wonderful tools for helping you become aware of your own inner narration and dialogue.

Ultimately, you have to follow your own inner voice. My message in setting forth the methods I’ve used to alter my disposition is that you can change your relationship with the world if you change your relationship with yourself. I may have royally scrambled a few good eggs in my twenties, but I got the right things right: I took my own path.

I leave you with a current favorite quote of mine from Jung:

“My path is not your path therefore I cannot teach you. The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life. Woe betide those who live by way of examples! Life is not with them. If you live according to an example, you thus live the life of that example, but who should live your own life if not yourself. So live yourselves. The signposts have fallen, unblazed trails lie before us.” – C.G. Jung

Zoom Way Out

Imagine you are on a plane, reclining in your seat at cruising altitude – comfortably aware of the smooth, motionless flight. Now, imagine that below you, thirty-thousand feet beneath the fuselage where you reside, there is a single person going about their day. This single individual is the central character in their life – and like every life, theirs has it’s unique share of adversities and troubles and tribulations. And like every living individual, they are doing their best to face the challenges they must face; however, as is the case for all of us – their best isn’t enough to provide them with a secure and lasting sense of inner peace. So they, like all humans, live with a fearful heart; their inner disposition is subject to their circumstances, and like the seas – their inner world constantly stirs.

But from your vantage point on the plane, wrapped in the white noise of the jet’s engines, their problems are nil.

Yet to them, as to us all – our bills, our relationships, our hopes, our dreams, our fears – all of our expectations and dreams are the entirety of the universe. But they aren’t really, are they?

Yet still, we [humans] constantly find ourselves in a terrible way – anxious, worried, nervous, fearful, completely neurotic about our problems. Yet we are infinitesimally small.

earth

We are even smaller than this.

This is one of the great paradoxes of life. Over 7 billion humans existing on one planet – each finding him or herself the center of the universe. And for the last fifty-thousand years our ancestors (Homo Sapiens) – an estimated 100 billion of them – have lived before us, sharing this same experience – hopes, dreams, fears, stress, worry; their lives were as real as our own. And today they are scattered like ancient leaves, their remnants either dust or fossils. And what was their worry worth? What good did their fears and their sadness bring? Their worries were a mental illness. As Marcus Aurelius wrote 2,500 years ago, “Socrates used to call the popular beliefs ‘bogies,’ things to frighten children with.”

Take a minute to get a true idea of our place in the universe. 

Tell me what you were worried about again?

As far back as the ancients, man was zooming out – mentally envisioning his place in the universe.

Observe the movement of the stars as if you were running their courses with them, and let your mind constantly dwell on the changes of the elements into each other. Such imaginings wash away the filth of life on the ground. Marcus Aurelius

Donald Robertson, of Philosophy of CBT writes on this, in the words of 16th century politician, writer, and philosopher Anthony Ashley-Cooper, The 3rd Earl of Shaftsbury:

View the heavens. See the vast design, the mighty revolutions that are performed. Think, in the midst of this ocean of being, what the earth and a little part of its surface is; and what a few animals are, which there have being. Embrace, as it were, with thy imagination all those spacious orbs, and place thyself in the midst of the Divine architecture. Consider other orders of beings, other schemes, other designs, other executions, other faces of things, other respects, other proportions and harmony. Be deep in this imagination and feeling, so as to enter into what is done, so as to admire that grace and majesty of things so great and noble, and so as to accompany with thy mind that order, and those concurrent interests of things glorious and immense. For here, surely, if anywhere, there is majesty, beauty and glory. Bring thyself as oft as thou canst into this sense and apprehension; not like the children, admiring only what belongs to their play; but considering and admiring what is chiefly beautiful, splendid and great in things. And now, in this disposition, and in this situation of mind, see if for a cut-finger, or what is all one, for the distemper and ails of a few animals, thou canst accuse the universe.

Shaftesbury, Philosophical Regimen, Deity, p. 19

Donald Robertson has also created this excellent guided meditation, designed to allow us to step into the same perspective the ancients enjoyed, viewing our life from above.

I publish this because this is the truth of our place in the universe. A universe that according to Carl Sagan, contains more stars than the total number of grains of sand on all of planet earth.

We are conscious beings on a planet; we are the echo of the big bang – we are the consciousness of the universe itself. We were not meant to live in a state of misery and fear. I submit this to you, my dear reader: we can transcend the petty – unfathomably small magnitude of our problems. We need only zoom out and see the forest beyond the trees, the stardust floating in the ether – a pale blue dot, on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Carl Sagan: Pale Blue Dot


And if you don’t feel like zooming out – simply look at the size of the world.

Samsara Official Trailer


Do read this next: Nothing. Stardust. The Illusion of Thought and the Nature of Reality.

 

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.

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”