Exploring Eternal Recurrence: Some Big Heckin’ Philosophy

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As I get older my philosophies become less hypothetical and more palpable. So instead of asking myself, “What if this were true?”, I’m asking: “Since I believe this to be true, what are the implications?” Inquiries of this nature can hit pretty hard because mentally it’s no longer a drill, it’s the real thing – life – and you have to decide how you’re going to live it given what you believe. This is why philosophy is so weighty: because it’s the recognition that beliefs have massive implications for our existence. And the philosophy I’m writing on has greater implications for me than anything I’ve ever encountered or written about before. I know I have to write this, to lay this all out before me, to even move forward. It’s that heavy. I’ve never faced anything like this. For me, it supersedes the question of whether there is a god because it answers the question of what happens after death.

The philosophy is known as “Eternal Return” or “Eternal Recurrence”. In short, it’s the idea time is a flat circle and life is a wheel, going round and round, repeating itself, forever and ever. This may not sound compelling yet, but as I explain it further, I think you may find it is one of the most compelling arguments you’ve ever encountered. It’s certainly nothing new, as many ancient cultures, from the Egyptians, to the Hindus, to the Buddhists, to the Aztecs, all believed in some version of this. It wasn’t until Christianity that we moved away from this idea, but before I get into the ancient origins of Eternal Recurrence and why Christianity moved us away from it, allow me to explain it from my modern viewpoint.

13.7 billion years ago, the big bang happened – the sudden appearance of everything from nothing, from a single point, an initial singularity, wherein everything was compressed into a single mass without any laws of physics, which scientists estimate to have been somewhere between the size of a soccer ball and a skyscraper-filled city block. Since we know the speed of light, we can measure how far away everything in the observable universe is, and we can see that it has been expanding since the big bang. Based on that expansion, many scientists believe the universe will eventually reach a point where the gravitational pull of things will cause the universe to collapse onto itself. This is known as the big crunch. Together, the big bang and the big crunch form the big bounce, which is a cyclic model of the universe that states we could be living “at any point in an infinite sequence of universes, or conversely the current universe could be the very first iteration.”

The big crunch is just one cyclic or oscillating model of the universe. Einstein theorized “a universe following an eternal series of oscillations, each beginning with a big bang and ending with a big crunch; in the interim, the universe would expand for a period of time before the gravitational attraction of matter causes it to collapse back in and undergo a bounce.” The first photo of a black hole, produced by Katie Bouman’s team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the MIT Haystack Observatory, is an image of light from 55 million light years away, meaning, we are looking at that specific black hole 55 million years ago, since that’s how long the light took to reach us. This photo proves Einstein’s century old theory about black holes and how light would behave around them. As Space.com says, “Don’t bet against Einstein.” I bring this up to make this point. What I’m telling you is not pie in the sky stuff. It’s very likely the big bang is neither the first nor the last.

From my own first-principles thinking, the mere appearance of anything means it is possible, and in the words of Elon Musk: “The first step is to establish that something is possible then probability will occur.” So, if it’s possible to have a big bang, then it’s probable to have another. What that probability looks like is relatively unknown, but physicists Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University and Neil Turok of Cambridge University estimate that each cycle of the universe lasts a trillion years.

“Once the universe is emptied out, a weak attractive force brings our universe’s two branes together in a cosmic collision. Each collision is essentially a new Big Bang that infuses the aging universe with new matter and energy.”

An alternate study from theoretical physicists Andrei Linde and Renata Kallosh at Stanford university estimates that the universe could collapse in a “mere” 10-20 billion years.

Billions of years or a trillion years, you say, well, how irrelevant to me… only, if that multi-billion year or trillion year cycle passes while you are dead, you have no awareness of it. So if you die and trillions of years later, there is another big bang, then the next thing you know, you are born again. Of course, who is to say that the next big bang will produce the same conditions and the same DNA that led to you being born; however, if we zoom out further, on infinite big bangs, then just as the possibility of a big bang establishes probability of it happening again, so too does the possibility of you being born. So maybe it’s trillions of big bangs later. It doesn’t matter: you still come into existence again – and since the time between existences is passed in death or non-existence, then to you, subjectively, there is no gap between them.

This likelihood obviously poses some questions.

As Neitzche writes of the eternal recurrence in his book ‘The Gay Science’, under the heading “The heaviest weight”:

“What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine.’ If this thought gained power over you, as you are it would transform and possibly crush you; the question in each and every thing, ‘Do you want this again and innumerable times again?’ would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to long for nothing more fervently than for this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?”

There’s a passage in psychologist Irvin D. Yalom’s novel, ‘When Nietzsche Wept’, where a patient, Dr. Breuer, is in therapy with “Nietzsche”, who encourages him to reflect upon the possibility of eternal recurrence:

Breuer: You suggest, that every action I make, every pain I experience, will be experienced through all infinity?

Nietzsche: Yes, eternal recurrence means that every time you choose an action you must be willing to choose it for all eternity. And it is the same for every action not made, every stillborn thought, every choice avoided. And all unlived life will remain bulging inside you, unlived through all eternity. And the unheeded voice of your conscience will cry out to you forever.”

What the author is conveying is that by making choices, we are establishing probability for their recurrence. So if one believes in the eternal return or eternal recurrence, then we must be aware that everything we do – that our life, as we live it now – we must be willing to choose for all of eternity.

As the Wikipedia for Eternal Return tells us, “If the probability of a world coming into existence exactly like our own is nonzero. If space and time are infinite, then it follows logically that our existence must recur an infinite number of times.”

I’ve provided a scientific model above for it based on the big bang. It most certainly “follows logically”. And I’m not writing this as a sci-fi thought experiment, but as a model for what I believe; however, long before we had a scientific model for an expanding and contracting universe, humans believed in Eternal Return. In ancient Egypt, the symbols of the snake eating its tail (The Ouroboros) and the scarab (dung beetle), both represented the concept of eternal return. The Aztec and Mayan calendar wheels represent this. The ancient greeks called it Palingenesis (From palin, again, and genesis, birth). The ancient hindus called it Reincarnation. The Buddhists called it Samsara. So what happened to this timeless idea?

Enter Christianity. A new myth is formed that says Jesus came down from heaven and saved humanity. Well, if you save humanity it doesn’t need to happen again. So, eternal return was done away with. While pre New Testament texts like Ecclesiastes tell us, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”, giving us something that seems like it could hint at eternal return; only a few verses earlier, we read that “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.” (Something science tells us will not be true, for the sun will run out of hydrogen and die a heat death in 5 billion years, and the universe will collapse long after). I feel like I’m pandering to religious people by even mentioning these things, but my point is not to establish what the bible says as evidence for anything other than what it represents, and the Judeo-Christian myths do not give any validity to the idea of eternal return. If god created the world, he doesn’t need to do it again and he certainly didn’t create it to be mortal like us, which science tells us it is; however, the importance is not the difference between religion and science but the impact of religion on the collective consciousness of belief. For it wasn’t until Nietzsche that the idea of eternal return came into widespread discussion in the West again. Following Nietzsche, Albert Camus resurrected the ancient Greek myth of sisyphus in his philosophical essay of the same title, telling us the story of a man who is fated to push a rock up a mountain only to have it roll down again, for all of eternity.

Camus writes:

“If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious.”

So, is it a tragic fate, to know, to be conscious, that you might repeat everything forever?

As Camus concludes his essay:

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

“The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.” What a sentiment. It’s certainly heroic.

Nietzsche similarly adopts a heroic attitude in ‘The Gay Science’:

“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that by my love henceforth!”

And in his last book ‘ Ecce Homo’, Nietzsche writes:

“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.”

Amor fati is a Latin phrase that means “Love of one’s fate”. As Wikipedia explains:

“Amor fati (lit. “love of fate”) is a Latin phrase that may be translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary, in that they are among the facts of one’s life and existence, so they are always necessarily there whether one likes them or not. Moreover, amor fati is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life.

This acceptance does not necessarily preclude an attempt at change or improvement, but rather, it can be seen to be along the lines of what Friedrich Nietzsche apparently means by the concept of “eternal recurrence”: a sense of contentment with one’s life and an acceptance of it, such that one could live exactly the same life, in all its minute details, over and over for all eternity.”

I find it telling that Camus also adopted a love of fate as a solution to life, writing in his journals:

“There is thus a will to live without rejecting anything of life, which is the virtue I honor most in this world.”

For to reject anything is to establish the probability to reject it forever and ever.

I don’t necessarily subscribe to predeterminism but I think if we believe in eternal recurrence, we have to accept that it is we who are establishing anything that will occur again. So we must choose our actions and choices as if we are to live with their occurrence and their consequences forever.

So I suppose the jaw-dropping shock of this leads me to conclude that I will write this again, maybe in billions or trillions of years. And I sit here thinking what I did last night, which is that if I am fated to live this life again and again, I want to do everything I can to decrease my suffering and to help others decrease theirs. For if I don’t manifest my gifts, which is to say, if I don’t utilize the unique talents that I have, then I will neither decrease my suffering nor that of others. But if I do, then I will forever and ever. And thus nothing is of more paramount importance than that – than contributing what I am able to contribute to improve life for myself and others on as large of a scale as is possible.

Postscript: It should be noted that within my philosophy, I currently have a few potential models of reality, which I wrote on here. The idea of eternal recurrence; however, has so far only existed in my ‘base-reality’ option; for if we are living in a simulation run by AI or a training program, then the arguments of the big bang etc, don’t have the same validity; although, it could be argued that even in a simulation, eternal recurrence will lead to the existence of the simulation again, so I guess it does hold for each of my theories. I think the neatest thing about this idea is that we are essentially immortal, but it’s entirely up to us how we are to spend our cycles of eternity. And even then, having written this, I’m still processing and digesting this big heckin’ philosophy in a meaningful way that I believe will bring me increased peace, acceptance, and drive for the life I am here to live.

Footnote: Eternal Return and Eternal Recurrence are the same, but I prefer the word ‘recurrence’ as it has a more specific, programmatic meaning for me.

New Age Monkeys: A Takedown of ‘Spiritual’ Bullshit

All, Ancient Wisdom, Buddhism, Happiness, humanity, Journal, LEVELS, life, Magic, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Psychology, Rationality, religion, Science, Self-Actualizing, spirituality

I’ve gone through many iterations of myself: from a naive, ambitious, and shallow young man, to a selfish, fearful alcoholic, and finally, to a person who is coming to find peace with themselves – but I’ve always been a seeker; I’ve gone down every road in life: including the spiritual one.

From a long influence of the Stoics and Marcus Aurelius, I considered myself a pantheist: one who believes the divine spark is in everything. I’ve also had some quite mystical experiences using entheogens, including a meeting with “the fairy godmother of the soul” on DMT. I am by no means a closed-minded person.

That does not mean, however, that I accept everything – or that I am against rejecting things I once accepted. I had a professor once, in a community college class, who taught me to question things, to be objective. There is perhaps no more important skill in life than that of separating signal from noise. And there’s a lot of fucking noise in life. The most dangerous of which, looks a lot like signal. It’s engaging, it’s enlivening, it feels good, and it sweeps you up – but this does not make it true. You make it true by believing in it. And that’s the danger.

I came to realize a couple nights ago that all my esoteric and mystical seeking was not getting me any closer to the reality I desire. And that’s a bitter black pill, but one I needed; for it’s very easy to go down the New Age rabbit hole. The problem is, it has no end, there is no objective truth to it – just a lot of people peddling “magical thinking” – and a lot of mind-games to play with yourself. It’s not unlike being in a mirrored labyrinth, wherein every concept creates another illusion, trapping you deeper.

This is by nature, a challenging topic, because the New Age movement is based on a lot of things I have long been interested in (Ancient mysticism, New Thought, The Human Potential Movement, and vague concepts like “energy” and ‘thinking creates reality’.) It’s challenging to reject what appears as pure positivity and good vibes – but when it’s bullshit, you have to.

It’s important that I make some points about the New Age movement. It has been an important stepping stone in liberating human consciousness from the chains of religion. It’s also led many people to be more at peace, more empathetic, more conscious of their impact on the planet, and more open-hearted. It is by no means a wholly negative evolution in human consciousness, and it’s certainly one that is growing ever more popular and more inclusive to persons of color, LGBTQ, and different faiths and interests. It’s hard to go in a bookstore today and not find a section on Witchcraft, Magic, or Astrology, which are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence – if I’m gauging the collective accurately through the filter-bubble of Instagram.

I’m even drawn to New Age women, and have fancied myself perhaps dating a “healer” type. I could also easily be described as a New Age man – I enjoy full moons, I wear a quartz crystal around my neck, I go to yoga… Those things are part of my appreciation for nature and myself, and I don’t plan on changing them… Again, we’re trying to separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff.

To that end, there’s an abundance of noise.

For a couple years now I’ve had a growing anti New Age sentiment brewing within me. It began as I observed how many people in New Age communities seem to have an almost puritanical “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” mentality, wherein they ignore large parts of life – god forbid they “lower their vibration”. This willful ignorance is often propped up by a belief that “all is one” or in the concept of “divine perfection.”

Now, I’m not one for conspiracies – outside of my own –  but it would seem just as religion was used to program the masses into submission, New Age beliefs have similarly castrated the human soul and tamed the human spirit. Why resist when “all is one” – why fight for change when there’s a “divine plan”, and why be an individual when you can “surrender your ego” and your “self” to take up your own bit of divinity – not just as a child of god, as Jesus saw man, but as god – as a “creator”.

I often wonder what a mind like Richard Alpert’s could have done had he not ended up in India and surrendered himself to his “guru” to become Ram Dass. Steve Jobs comes to mind. But even then, from his barefoot days at Reed College to taking LSD and traveling to India himself, Jobs is no savior. Just another baby boomer who turned into a company man (The Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs is a good read for a look at his human failings). Looking back on every New Age figure throughout history I don’t see a tangible impact beyond perhaps “raising the collective consciousness”. But where it has risen in some areas (Empathy, ecological awareness), it has fallen in others (Individuality, objective thinking, rationality). Ultimately, it’s just another form of tribalism. Another in-group. Additionally, being New Age or having read all the New Age books does not grant one any sort of special wisdom or awareness – only perhaps a belief in their own “specialness”. And the New Agers can be just as shallow and superficial as anyone else. And perhaps you might be too if you were going to a Vegan retreat in Bali or a multi-thousand dollar trip to Costa Rica to do “Aya”. Often they’re quite privileged, these spiritual types.  And it’s a shame only the upper classes have access to the increasing quality of available experiences, whether they be reiki healing, float tanks, intravenous Ketamine infusions, or even yoga. Try eating healthy in a food desert. No one is calling the New Agers ascetics, and the old spiritual path of renouncing material possessions has been usurped by an “abundance consciousness”. The belief in “The Secret” or “Manifestation” or “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” is enough to make me barf today.

The fact is, from my own experience, I can tell you, no amount of belief is going to save you. While New Age thinking can certainly bring deeper levels of inner peace, a belief in your own divinity is not much different from the old Judeo-Christian beliefs in an afterlife – it’s the same shit: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Again, we keep inventing gods, even ourselves, but we’re not elevating the human animal, we’re still elevating the human above the animals.

The fact is, we come from primates. We were fish first. These are scientific facts.

Yet we’re still looking for what Carl Sagan called “a reassuring fable.” We keep fucking inventing religions. New Age is just the newest one, another “anthropocentric conceit”. Only, we are the gods now. Are we so shamed of being human that we have to invent something above us? And by doing so, lower ourselves in our own subconscious estimate beneath the “divine” or the “higher self”.

As Jesus was written to have said in the deliciously-blasphemous Thomas Gospel, which the Church has long rejected:

“If the flesh came into existence because of the spirit, it is a marvel. But if the spirit (came into existence) because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels.”

This I say, is the truth. In the words of mythologist Joseph Campbell, “All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.”

They are merely what Jung called “archetypes of the collective unconscious“. Inborn, man-made remnants from evolution – from thousands of generations of belief in myths and religions, which were born of pagan gods and goddesses before them.

And I imagine the first gods were no more than the outward personifications of the inborn instincts of early humans. But we have to go forward. Turning each of ourselves into gods is a step back – and no less grandiose, egoistic and conceited than the Egyptian rulers or the Emporer Constantine, who thought he was a “divine avatar”, a god on earth.

The concept of avatars dates back to the Hindus. Krishna was one such “avatar”. Nowadays, instead of worshipping external deities, we are returning to the self-deification that the ancient rulers practiced. And it’s very telling in this age of self-worship, but it’s not at all grounded in the reality that joins us as a species. I’ll be the first to preach self-love, but I do not preach self-worship. That kind of thinking is out of touch with the humility that comes with accepting the darkside in each of us. As Jung wrote, “I’d rather be whole than good.” Thinking of oneself as purely “good” is a surefire way to being shortsighted about yourself and thinking you are better than others.

Man created god as an archetype – a model – for man. But it’s a hollow one. One that denies the innate sacredness of life in favor of some “divine” presence above us. When Nietzsche wrote that “God is dead”, he meant the archetype of the god in the sky, but we refuse to let go of the “god” within and so are internalizing the godhead into the human, which might seem a beautiful thing, were it not completely infantile. We don’t need to be loving the perfect, divine god: we need to be loving the imperfect, animalistic human.

And you’re welcome to hold onto your beliefs, but I’m letting mine go. I removed over forty New Age, spiritual books from my library last night. Of course, I’m not throwing out the baby with the bathwater – I kept my books on yoga, meditation, mindfulness, business success, and even my Buddhist and Hindu texts. But these are practical, life enriching philosophies that have stood the test of time. I cannot say the same for the New Age spiritualism that is preached by so many charlatans, from Deepak Chopra to Oprah. It’s all a fucking con. And if you follow it, like I did, you’re going to find yourself in that mirrored labyrinth – wondering if you’re problem is that you don’t believe in yourself enough. What a trap. But we keep creating it.

If anything New Age spirituality is a barrier to self-love – a blockade to success. It’s just another separation of man from himself. Another door on his heart that says, “You have to knock for it to be opened.”

New Age is completely disempowering because it’s not rational – and when we lack logic and rationality, we are rudderless, lost. We don’t need belief, we need self-esteem, self-worth. We don’t need divine love, we need human love. And we don’t need The Secret, we need cause and effect.

As I read this morning, in Brian Tracy’s book ‘Flight Plan‘:

From Brian Tracy’s ‘Flight Plan’

This turn in my personal evolution is one I am thrilled about. Maturity, it has been said, is the ability to see life more clearly.

I want to accept my mortality, without illusions, without any comforts. It’s this life I am interested in. And while I’m taking a more naturalistic worldview, it’s not to my detriment at all. It’s the opposite. It’s empowering me with real truth. By no means does this mean I no longer believe that “consciousness and energy are the same thing somehow”, as Joseph Campbell once said to Bill Moyers. I still believe this. And I believe my consciousness has an effect on others – the same way my energy can be intuitively perceived by animals and children. But there’s no longer any voodoo to it. The god in me has come down to earth. I want to be a human.

And I want to be the best goddamn human I can be. Full of compassion, love, dignity, honesty – all the things that make one valuable to themselves and those around them.

I believe in the sacredness of humanity – not of gods. I see this same sacredness in animals. I believe there are timeless energies that are worth holding up as examples for how to live. They are values – ethical rather than moral. I’m not interested in “right” or “wrong” – I’m interested in what is beneficial and what does not cause harm and suffering. And there are a lot of people suffering.

What we need as individuals is compassion. Not the kind that comes from seeing everything as divine or godlike, but from seeing everything as living, vulnerable, fragile, delicate.

This planet is a living thing. No doubt about it. From the oceans we evolved from to the land that nourished us. It’s incredible. It’s real magic. I don’t need to play anymore games about my identity. I am wholly human. Now, maybe we live in a simulation, but it’s still grounded in a biological reality.

I’d like to close by talking about our cousins, the great apes. I went down the ape rabbit hole last night, in a quest for answers. I wanted to know how to be human.

And I found some great answers, about what it means to be human, from the chimpanzees.

I highly recommend you watch the following:

If you found that as interesting as I did, you’ll want to read these too:

What You Can Learn From The Chimps: Traits Of The Alpha Male Leader – Part 1

What You Can Learn From The Chimps: Traits Of The Alpha Male Leader – Part 2

What You Can Learn From The Chimps: Traits Of The Alpha Male Leader – Part 3

I think you’ll find more in the above video and articles about what it means to be human, to be a good leader, to play the game of life, than you will in all the spiritual New Age books you can find.

And, if you’ve read the above, I’d like to pose a hypothetical question to you:

If a chimpanzee could read, what benefit to his success and the wellbeing of its troop, would any New Age or spiritual text be?

I’d say the answer is none. Because life is not about getting caught up in head games about whether you are a “god” in your own mind. It’s about being confident in yourself as a human, it’s about being altruistic and beneficial to the other humans on this planet. And you can have your monkey motives, and want to mate too. That’s okay too.

We evolved from monkeys – whom we ought to properly revere as our ancestors – and having gone to the gods and back, I want to return to an apelike consciousness, one deeply grounded in reality – freed from the traps of wishful, magical thinking, and comforting fables. So, take your “all is one”, “divine plan” and shove it up your ass where it belongs. The final truth is: we don’t need to learn to be gods – we don’t need more spiritual leaders – we need to learn to be humans and we need more truly human leaders.

The Keys to The Kingdom: My Two Most Valuable Pieces of Life Advice

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The older you get, the more you find yourself doubling down on what works.

And hopefully, if you’ve taken the difficult paths in life, you’ve discovered some truths of great value.

There’s a parable in the Thomas Gospel that I read this morning –

Sidenote: Before I continue, allow me to say that I love the Gospel of Thomas. As a decidedly anti-religious thinker who is opposed to all dogma and most institutional traditions, I don’t hold the bible up as much more than a great source of inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. That said, the Gospel of Thomas is not part of the bible; being a non-canonical text it would have been considered heresy: just the kind of thing I love, and, if you read it, you’ll see why. 

So this specific saying, attributed to Jesus, that awakened Buddha, is as follows:

And He said, "The Kingdom is like a wise fisherman who cast
his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of small fish.
Among them the wise fisherman found a fine large fish. He threw
all the small fish back into the sea and chose the large fish
without difficulty. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."

In my own interpretation, the large fish represents what was called in Cloud Atlas, “The true-true”. The big truth. These two pieces of knowledge I am writing to share are my big truths – the large fish. And, having found them, I live by them, they sustain me, allowing me to throw back all the little truths. You could say these truths are my keys to the kingdom. They go beyond intelligence and open invisible doors, by virtue of their practical wisdom.

Terry Crews, in Timothy Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors, makes a poignant remark as to wisdom:

“There is a big difference between intelligence and wisdom. Many are fooled into thinking they are the same thing, but they are not. I’ve seen intelligent serial killers, but I’ve never seen a wise one. Intelligent humans beings have been given this trumped-up position in society where, just because they are intelligent, they are listened to, and I have found this extremely dangerous.”

That said, these two pieces of knowledge are wisdom – my big fish. The true-true.

1. The Navy Seals’ Big Four of Mental Toughness

At some point, the Navy Seal’s – arguably the world’s most elite special forces – had a problem. Only about 25% of trainees were passing BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School).

So the powers that be brought in the country’s best minds – top university researchers – to figure out how to improve the pass-rate.

After a lot of time and money – presumably millions of dollars – the researchers came up with four techniques, which when used in conjunction, made a statistically significant difference in the pass rate.

These four techniques would come to be known as “The Big Four of Mental Toughness”.

I first wrote about them five years ago, but truth be told, I didn’t put them into serious conscious practice until this year.

In short, they are as follows:

1. Arousal Control (Breath)

Arousal Control is centered around a specific diaphragmatic breathing technique: 4-4-4. Four seconds inhale, four seconds hold, four seconds exhale.

The research backs it up. It makes a large physiological and psychological difference. In my own learning, I discovered that most people breath shallowly, letting their upper-chest rise and fall – however, until about age six, children naturally breath properly – their stomachs expanding on the inhale.

The problem with incorrect breathing is that it puts your body in a fight or flight mode. This, of course, is not good for your health or wellbeing.

YouTube offers a lot of great videos on proper breathing, and once you learn – and begin to practice – it not only becomes natural again, but it becomes one of the best tools in your toolkit. Suddenly, you are aware of when you’re not in a centered, calm place, and you consciously go beyond diaphragmatic breath, into the 4-4-4 technique. It’s the same feeling, the same benefits as yoga and meditation – on demand.

2. Self-Talk

There is no separating consciousness from reality, short of some of the classic psychedelics (LSD, Psilocybin, Mescaline) – but even then, those are not sustainable modes of consciousness. Life is something each of us has to experience in our own heads. Now, we may not be aware of it but we tend to have fairly disempowering inner-voices. Perhaps it is due to the saying that, “The way you talk to your children becomes their inner voice,” and we are each a product of generations of largely unconscious programming. Frankly, it’s not fun. Thankfully, we have self-talk available to us. Self-talk is the power to take your life back from the automatic, default mode of consciousness that so many of us have often destructively sought to escape. Self-talk is the power to move from the unconscious into the conscious. It’s the power to control your experience. I’d argue that’s the sum total of The Big Four [controlling your reality], but self-talk is a major part of it. In short, you want to empower yourself, you want to talk to yourself the same way you would a child. You want to emotionally support and optimistically encourage yourself. The conversation you have in your head is THE most important one in your life. What self-fulfilling prophecies are you creating with your self-talk? What reality are you choosing?

3. Mental Rehearsal 

This is one of my favorites among The Big Four, but I love them all. I just happen to have a fetish for the imagination. As Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” It’s true. Visualization is the top thing among human performance experts for a reason. It’s what all high performers, all olympians, all champions, all winners practice. Mental rehearsal is the act of imagining your tasks along with their desired outcomes, in as great of detail and depth as possible. For the Seals, this means no mission-critical task is completed without first envisioning it. The brain knows no difference. Unfortunately, most of our imaginations are either out of practice or neurotic – in that we use them to worry. And what a foolish, maladaptive thing. We have, each of us, at our disposal, the most incredible form of magic available to us. Again, like self-talk, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The watered down new-age version of mental rehearsal is “The Secret” or “The Law of Attraction”, and how many times have you heard these wonderfully compelling stories – Jim Carrey writing himself a 10 million dollar check when he was broke. This was mental-rehearsal. And when we can can believe it truly, magic happens; for all true magic deals with manipulation and control of the Will. If you look back on your own life, at your greatest successes, you believed in them – you mentally rehearsed them. I think this is one of the biggest differences between the successes and the failures in life. As 50 Cent once said, “I believe you can almost will things to happen.” Believe it when you see it and see it when you believe it, but you have to see it first. No one’s success comes as a true surprise to them. If you think it does, buy another lottery ticket.

4. Goal Setting

This one almost seems anticlimactic compared to the others, but it’s not at all.

When most of us think of goal-setting, we think of getting motivated about life for a night, writing down our dreams, then watching them flatline over the next six months to a year. When the Navy Seals think of goal-setting, they think of surviving their training till lunch time and the exact steps required to do so. Like the other three items in The Big Four, Goal Setting goes along with each item – and is only truly effective when practiced along with the others. I’ve found in my own goal setting practice that by focusing on what’s in front of me, I am able to progress toward what’s ahead. Every day, I have a list. I cross items off and I review it at night and write the next day’s list, and in the morning, I go over it almost first thing. Without goal-setting my mental rehearsal would be impotent and my self-talk would be purposeless. Further, my breathwork wouldn’t be nearly as peacefilled and centered without knowing exactly where I am and where I am going.

Go deeper into The Big Four of Mental Toughness, here.

2. Dopamine Restriction

This one might be even more valuable to me than The Big Four.

Without practicing what I term “Dopamine Restriction”, my life would be completely out of my own control – as was the case for too many years.

In short, dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation AND reward.

Everything pleasurable releases dopamine. Some things are quite powerful dopamine agonists… Nicotine. Alcohol. Cannabis.

The problem isn’t so much pleasure as its consequences.

It causes us to seek more pleasure, and in turn to feel less.

In one study, researchers gave heavy, longterm cannabis users methylphenidate (Ritalin) in order to measure their dopamine response. The control group, consisting of non-users of cannabis, was also given the same Ritalin dose.

The heavy cannabis users had such blunted dopamine receptors that the Ritalin – basically methamphetamine – hardly even registered a response in their brains. The researchers were so surprised that their first instinct was to check if the Ritalin they had administered was expired – it was not.

What this and other research has shown, is that the ability to illicit natural dopamine responses is greatly diminished in heavy cannabis users. It’s no different for any source of dopamine. The more we behave like lab-rats, pushing the levers in our brains to feel pleasure, the less pleasure we are able to feel – and the more we crave it.

But it goes deeper, is more tragic. Dopamine isn’t just pleasure (reward) but motivation.

So, if you’re like me, and smoked a half-ounce of potent cannabis a week, forget about even feeling alive. At that point, your brain is starved for dopamine, which, in my experience, leads to all sorts of additional pleasure seeking behaviors. For me this meant cigarettes (“But I smoke organic cigarettes,” I told myself), alcohol, masturbation – just to feel okay, not even good.

You may be thinking, that’s all good and well but I don’t smoke anything and I hardly drink. 

Okay, well, do you check the news? Reddit? Instagram? These things are no different.

One day, we’ll look back on our cell-phones like cigarettes. Not because they give us cancer, but because we are addicted to them – and in turn receive our dopamine from them.

In my philosophy of dopamine restriction, based on my own life experience, it’s not a moral issue. It’s a matter of sapping the life out of ourselves – the very pleasure and motivation that makes life worth living. With such potent readily available sources of dopamine at our fingertips, we are hitting the lever like rats in an experiment all day long. The true consequence of which isn’t so much the dampening of pleasure or the weakening of motivation, but the loss of drive – of natural drive for the HEALTHY things that we are supposed to get our dopamine from. We’re lobotomizing our human technology for fulfillment – we’re hacking our natural hardwiring in a way that’s absolutely maladaptive.

My evidence for this is the difference between then and now, between when I was desperate to feel “normal” and constantly pressing those levers with nicotine, THC, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, porn, news, reddit… I was fucking myself royally.

I’ve since quit every single thing on that list. And guess what, now that I’m not addicted to “pleasure” I’m pursing fulfillment again. My sleep is deep, dream-filled and divine. I wake rested. I feel balanced. I walk. I eat healthy. I drink water. I work out. And possibly the biggest benefit is that I have ninja-like focus. I engage in Deep Work for hours every single day. I write fiction every single morning. I write poetry every single evening. I read again. No more spending hours on YouTube. I’m simply no longer distracted. I am focused and productive. Also, I don’t have any more depression. It’s a lifestyle that’s completely pragmatic and healthy – well-adapted, you might say.

In short, my philosophy for dopamine restriction is based on avoiding all “false sources” of pleasure. This means I avoid anything that isn’t fulfilling, healthy, and empowering – despite how pleasurable it is.

The ascetics have known this wisdom for millennia. You could say it’s raised my consciousness to a much higher level. It’s the single best piece of understanding I’ve ever integrated into my life. Knowing the above, I simply can never return to the old un-jedi-like ways. I’d be fucking myself – sabotaging every bit of happiness and wellbeing I have. And, to drive the point home – I feel better than I have in years, probably better than I’ve ever felt.

3. Bonus: The Gut Brain Axis

Google ‘gut brain axis’ and you’ll come across a wealth of information.

In short, scientists are calling the gut brain axis the missing link in depression. This might be because 90% of the body’s serotonin and 50% of the body’s dopamine are produced in the gut.

It travels straight through the central nervous system to your brain.

Now, there’s a miracle here. It’s called probiotics.

Gut health is mental health – is wellbeing.

If you’re not actively investing in your gut microbiome, today is the day you’re going to start. You simply have too much to lose by failing to and too much to gain by starting.

I encourage you to do your own research – and then some – but based on mine, I recommend the following:

Avoid alcohol. This kills all the good bacteria in your gut and it takes weeks to recover (provided you go weeks without drinking). Also, avoid big corporate mouthwashes, which will inevitably make their way in trace amounts into your gut, killing all the good bacteria there.

Eat probiotics. Every single kind. I take probiotic pills. I take prebiotic pills. I eat yogurt. I drink Kevita probiotic drinks (I avoid traditional kombucha due to trace amounts of alcohol). I eat a handful of different yogurts – with multiple probiotic strains. I take a greens powder with a half-dozen probiotic strains. I eat expensive, all natural pickles and sauerkraut (Bubbies brand). I eat high-quality kimchi. I drink Kefir.

Eat a diverse range of foods. There are foods known as prebiotics. They help probiotics. Eat a wide range of natural foods. You want a diverse gut microbiome. And you want to eat natural, organic foods. Shitty pickles and processed foods and fast food, and all that garbage is going to negatively impact your gut microbiome.

In short, my diet is centered around my gut health. I also take various supplements and enjoy things that help me look better, such as organic chicken bone broth and grass-fed collagen protein. Also, buy grassfed milk and grassfed butter. It’s much easier on the cows stomachs than grains – they live better lives: just like you when you eat the right foods.

That said, that’s my true-true. The keys to my kingdom at thirty-three. My most valuable pieces of life-advice, and I feel blessed to know them and to finally live my truths – god knows it took a long time to find them.

Recap

To recap everything: study and practice The Big Four (Breath control, self-talk, mental-rehearsal, goal setting). Restrict and eliminate all unhealthy, unfulfilling, purposeless, disempowering sources of dopamine. Curate a healthy gut microbiome. Integrate these into your life and I think your likelihood of success, happiness, fulfillment, and wellbeing all go way up. They certainly have for me.

Organized Religion Sucks Major Balls

All, Ancient Wisdom, Magic, Personal Mythology, Philosophy, religion, Ritual, spirituality, Timeless Truths

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

– Lucias Annaeus Seneca, 4BC – AD65

There are really only a few major religious myths that have survived the ages, and it’s really quite something that these stories have endured for billions of people, but you’ve probably been one of them at one point or another, or are now. And, if you’re relatively tolerant, you can recognize the cultural and personal values these religions provide; however, the older I get and the more I study world history, the more I view religion as a net-negative for humanity and a blight on the personal psyche.

It’s reality control (Heaven and hell). It’s self-worth control (You’re a sinner, homosexuality is a sin, and on and on). I mean, have you spent any time with a baby; do you think that babies are “born in sin”?

Let me say it point blank: religion is absolutely fucking twisted, and it always has been. Nothing has crushed the human animal and taken the sheen and organic beauty off of human culture more than organized religion.

I recently read a story that illustrated this dehumanization so poignantly to me.

In Northern China, in Mongolia, there exists an ethnic minority called the Oroqen people. While there are an estimated 8,000 Oroqen, their religion is dead – gone with the last Oroqen shaman, who died in 2000.

From wikipedia:

Until the early 1950s the main religion of the nomadic Oroqen was shamanism. In the summer of 1952 cadres of the Chinese communist party coerced the leaders of the Oroqen to give up their “superstitions” and abandon any religious practices. These tribal leaders, Chuonnasuan (Meng Jin Fu) and Zhao Li Ben, were also powerful shamans. The special community ritual to “send away the spirits” and beg them not to return was held over three nights in Baiyinna and in Shibazhan.

Absolutely heartbreaking. A real life parable to James Cameron’s Avatar myth and the Na’vi beings. Here, you can try and displace blame on the communist party, but it was always the leaders who gave religion its power, who blessed its crusades.

The shaman has been made extinct almost worldwide and the shamanic post usurped by the priest, the pastor, the rabbi, and other authorized and sanctioned channels. The travesty here, being not only the death of ancient and true ways of life, but the gatekeeping of our pathways to the soul (I touched on this idea back in 2015, here).

But the more I learn, the more I see there are a whole host of truly beautiful, powerful, even magical things that religion has blotted out from human consciousness.

Religion has intently made taboo some of the most precious, naturalistic human knowledge: sexual, spiritual, metaphysical – entheogenic.

They turned our ancestor’s gods into devils and made humanity a sin.

Magic and Witchcraft were painted black and remain stained thousands of years after they were deemed “evil.” Let me tell you, those witches and their flying ointment were doing what the shamans were doing, which is to say, going off into darkness to bring back what we forgot.

But since only the priest can dole out truth, they burned them at the stake, casting them into a literal “hell”. This contributed to the western idea that women were inferior, not only socially but spiritually; many prehistoric and ancient religions were goddess worshipping, but no major religion is today. Many of the goddess deities were painted as evil and associated with demons, playing on very powerful human fears.

Magic was also associated with the demonic and too was cannibalized by organized religion. Rituals and sacred rites that nourished humans for millennia were absolutely forbidden. The viewing of outside beliefs as magic led to a whole lot of “We, as good Christians, have a right to enslave and govern these ‘savages'”. Magic became a curse. Even modern associations with the mere word “occult” do the ancient and timeless traditions of magic a gross disservice.

Theurgy – an entire practice of rituals, often magic in nature, with the intent of uniting oneself with the devine – has been wiped from mainstream human consciousness.

There isn’t a primitive society that didn’t begin with magic, but there are no religions for magic because magic is personal rather than social.

When I say magic, I am referring to rites and rituals rather than illusion or stage magic, as we think of it today. Paleolithic cave paintings were thought to have been a form of magic, designed to influence the hunt (Not much different than today’s Special Forces being trained in “mental rehearsal.”).

Religion borrowed it’s power and its symbols from magic (ex: The Star of David is the hexagram representing the perfect union of masculine and feminine.) but didn’t share it. Almost as if to say, “Only we, The Church, can influence the outcome of things.

I have a deep haunting suspicion that organized religion’s spiritual and psychological control over man was far more disempowering for the human being than we know. This notion is similar to the idea of Obscurantism, in which knowledge is deliberately hidden from those outside the “elite”.

“The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding, but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence.”

– Fredrich Nietzsche

And I think our idea of existence, of ourselves, has been grossly darkened. The mere invention of satan and the demonic has cast a shadow over all humanity that many will live their entire lives under.

Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, who shut down all the cities sexual temples and converted his people to Christianity, believed he himself was a god, a “superhuman avatar”. This gives you a likely idea of the mentality behind the people who pushed religion on their subjects; “I am a god, but you are all cattle.”

Whether my ideas strike people as conjecture or valid – or whatever – I care not; I am here to reclaim to real-estate in my soul that I have been forced to be a mere tenant-farmer of by way of organized religion’s grip on the collective consciousness, and, thusly, the individual’s consciousness.

Organized religion is in the core software of the matrix, like consumerism and vanity are. Only religion isn’t behaviorism, it’s mind control – it’s what controls behavior.

Look at how the religious right votes and what they value (And don’t say “family” lol). They value a divisive, morally toxic system of judgement that, by its own virtue, renders them immune from conscience. I can tell you, Jesus would not be a fan of fox news.

In fact, his namesake religion is very far from his teachings if you place any value in the Thomas Gospel, which contains the secret sayings of the living Jesus. The church places no stock in this historical document, but it’s worth the read to those who view Jesus on the level of Buddha, as an enlightened person.

I’m getting off track and it’s late but I can tell you, my opinions didn’t come from sitting around and being pissed off – they came from a lot of reading and a unique life experience that has given me a chance to shape my voice for what I believe to be absolutely true, with a capital T.

It has been said that the second job of the artist is to crate myth, but the first job is to destroy it.

I believe in the divinity of humanity. I believe in the sacred and powerful nature of the soul, but I do not believe god is up there watching me masturbate to some serious porn.

Most of the ancient cultures were animists or pantheistic – and certainly polytheistic. This idea of one god, separate from us is a tyranny that needs to die within us so we can begin to live.

As it happens in myself, I’m discovering a level of peace and open minded rationality that I never knew before. I’m also starting to practice some self-generative magic rituals that are having a phenomenal impact on my being. It was actually my intent to write about those magic rituals tonight, but I guess before I created myth, I had to do some work in destroying it.

Zooming Out: Catching Up With Myself at 32

All, Ancient Wisdom, Journal

It’s time to zoom out. And so, I’ve come to write: where all my major honesty and resultant growth occurs; for without writing, I’d have no free will, no ability to edit the scripts running in my consciousness – scripts as in stories, and scripts as in programs, i.e., JavaScript.

And perhaps these metaphors feel palpable to me because I write fiction and I code, but I’ve definitely come to think of myself as a mind hacker – a title I covet because I think it’s my gift: I can change how people see things.

And that’s really one of the jobs of the artist – as Malcolm Gladwell so aptly defined it: art is using your humanity to create change in other people. 

And one thing I can confidently say for myself is that I am growing immensely in my humanity. In fact, I’ve never felt more humbled by life – and it’s all been the result of shifts in my perspective.

I’m not saying I can teach you something about life, but I can tell you about what it means to be human. And my whole life has been spent trying to make that duty [being human] easier – very often making it harder, but that’s life – that’s what it means to be human, to err.

I think human life is remarkable in the sense that it involves constant personal growth: you’re born one person, you die another. I used to think life was some series of stages, and I think this is because society views it this way: adolescence, youth, adulthood, old age. But life isn’t that simple, it’s not automatic: we age, yes – but whether we grow fully is up to us.

Jung’s Four Stages of Life Development, which follow, presents some interesting paradigms for growth, aging, and maturity, particularly in the youth and middle life stages:

Childhood: (birth to puberty)
Childhood has two substages. The archaic stage is characterized by sporadic consciousness, while the monarchic stage represents the beginning of logical and abstract thinking. The ego starts to develop.

Youth: (puberty until 35 – 40)
Maturing sexuality, growing consciousness, and a realization that the carefree days of childhood are gone forever. People strive to gain independence, find a mate, and raise a family.

Middle Life: (40-60) The realization that you will not live forever creates tension. If you desperately try to cling to youth, you will fail in the process of self-realization. Jung believed that in midlife, one confronts one’s shadow. Religiosity may increase during this period, according to Jung.

Old Age: (60 and over) Consciousness is reduced. Jung thought that death is the ultimate goal of life. By realizing this, people will not face death with fear, but with a hope for rebirth.

I feel that, in looking at these criterion, I’ve just now reached youth at 32, having spent so long operating more from the childhood, and, more recently, the middle life stages; however, regardless of where you might appraise yourself across this list, it’s doubtless something capable of provoking some valuable self-examination (Unfortunately, being human entails dealing with some absolutely shit base code).

Another great lens for self-examination are the Big Five Personality Factors (Traits):

Openness to experience: (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious). Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety a person has. It is also described as the extent to which a person is imaginative or independent, and depicts a personal preference for a variety of activities over a strict routine. High openness can be perceived as unpredictability or lack of focus. Moreover, individuals with high openness are said to pursue self-actualization specifically by seeking out intense, euphoric experiences, such as skydiving, living abroad, gambling, et cetera. Conversely, those with low openness seek to gain fulfillment through perseverance, and are characterized as pragmatic and data-driven—sometimes even perceived to be dogmatic and closed-minded. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret and contextualize the openness factor.

Conscientiousness: (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless). A tendency to be organized and dependable, show self-discipline, act dutifully, aim for achievement, and prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior. High conscientiousness is often perceived as stubbornness and obsession. Low conscientiousness is associated with flexibility and spontaneity, but can also appear as sloppiness and lack of reliability.

Extraversion: (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved). Energy, positive emotions, surgency, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness. High extraversion is often perceived as attention-seeking, and domineering. Low extraversion causes a reserved, reflective personality, which can be perceived as aloof or self-absorbed.

Agreeableness: (friendly/compassionate vs. analytical/detached). A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others. It is also a measure of one’s trusting and helpful nature, and whether a person is generally well-tempered or not. High agreeableness is often seen as naive or submissive. Low agreeableness personalities are often competitive or challenging people, which can be seen as argumentative or untrustworthy.

Neuroticism: (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident). The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, and vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control and is sometimes referred to by its low pole, “emotional stability”. A high need for stability manifests as a stable and calm personality, but can be seen as uninspiring and unconcerned. A low need for stability causes a reactive and excitable personality, often very dynamic individuals, but they can be perceived as unstable or insecure. 

Here, I can identify that I need to work on my conscientiousness – being less careless and more dutiful / organized, productive – and I need to work on my neuroticism – increasing my emotional stability by zooming out and experiencing negative emotions with ease, rather than reeling in that sick, uneasy feeling I get – the one that led me to smoke four dabs of Yoda OG shatter before I wrote this: a virtuous, sacred act in comparison to my years of problematic drinking in a failed effort to quell the same feelings (Each to their own). That said, Cannabis is a psychedelic and I am a big proponent of the therapuetic and psycho-shamanic value of psychedelics.

Again, I’m a mind hacker. That’s the beauty of having a mind: you can change it.

A large part of my being is rooted in the futurist paradigm of consciousness as a computer. And this by no means speaks to the viability of the idea, but, rather, to the validity of it: consciousness as a computer is a valuable paradigm, one that today enables me to live with a greater degree of stoicism, mindfulness, and ultimately, inner peace.

I am beginning to understand who I am and grow into my potential as a result of having adopted a growth mindset, which, coupled with ideas from people more intelligent than I, have allowed me to change myself in really positive ways – and in doing this work, in facing life honestly, bravely, strongly, I’ve opened up to life in really beautiful, empowering, freeing ways. And I’ve discovered that I’m actually much more than I ever thought I was, and – at the same time – I’m everything I knew I was all along (Good person, writer, romantic), BUT: I’m also everything my ego feared I was (Petty, temperamental, self-destructive). And knowing that, knowing my blind spots and weaknesses, is just as essential.

Look, I must admit, I do not like large parts of who I was in my twenties. And that’s a good thing.

When I was proud of myself I was an asshole. Increased humility and self-knowledge have made me a kinder, more human person.

It’s also made life much easier for me. Things are probably better than they have ever been; I’m getting my shit together, so to speak.

Today, I woke up in a beautiful home in the mountains and wrote fiction, working on what will become my first published novel.

This writing shit is real, is happening.

I’m also in a stable, loving relationship with a beautiful, evolving woman, who is in every way committed to growing with me and doing life properly so that none of it is wasted in negative feeling; however, as we have learned together, negative feelings will make or break you: it is how you choose to deal with them; every emotional reaction to an outside event being a choice.

Will you react with grace, tolerance, fairness and equanimity, or will your lower, base animal consciousness rule you?

It is all your choice.

I am choosing to zoom out from the outside events, realizing that the inside events are far more worth my attention and energies, for it is the inner life – our spiritual needs – that must be met above all – lest we ignore them until our shadow is so overgrown that it takes over, as is the case for anyone that knows what it is to be their own worst enemy.

Two years ago,  I turned thirty and thought I knew what it was to be a man – as if I could suddenly encapsulate and know my twenties with a sudden new wisdom; it wasn’t like that. I wasn’t done clinging to youth, fucking it up for myself.

Over the course of the next two years, from 30-32, I would:

  • Meet Sarah and fell in love
  • Move to the mountains
  • Wake to news of my Dad’s death
  • Start two failed businesses
  • Get major wintertime cabin fever
  • Punch my fist through a bedroom door
  • Hit relationship bottom, nearly saying goodbye, before months later when we would become stronger than ever
  • Face a lot more of my shadow, including my twenties, honestly
  • Have that birthday where I woke up and suddenly felt old AF
  • Switch from being a dysfunctional drinker to a very functional stoner
  • Transform from insomniac to early morning happy bed head
  • Release my childhood resentments toward my parents
  • Outgrow my attachments to past girlfriends
  • Accept my mortality, seeing that much of my young life is gone
  • Commit to my dreams as a serious fucking writer (By writing fiction every damn beautiful morning)
  • Go from unsure about my future to decided

And what’s as much, if not more than these things, is that I changed, I grew, I matured.

The events are not different, I am.

Because that’s what counts: who we are, how we see things. This is what makes all the difference between heaven and hell.

Its all in your fucking head. Only, you’re swallowed up, caught in a tidal wave called zeitgeist, so that you never live life deciding every day is going to be the best day of your life – because you’re just like, “Meh”.

And if you are there, I really hope you will open up to the richness of your inner life, which is nothing short of a wellspring for goodness.

My goals this year are centered around opening up to my inner life: the cohesion of soul, spirit, mind, and body; I’m not so much interested in new experiences as I am in experiencing the same things in brand new ways, because ultimately, consciousness is within us – we merely project it onto the outer world – but few people ever discern between inner truth and outer experience, the latter being illusory or what the Vedas refer to as Maya.

From Wiki:

The term Maya has been translated as ‘illusion,’ but then it does not concern normal illusion. Here ‘illusion’ does not mean that the world is not real and simply a figment of the human imagination. Maya means that the world is not as it seems; the world that one experiences is misleading as far as its true nature is concerned.

And:

The Vedas cannot show you Brahman, you are That already. They can only help to take away the veil that hides truth from our eyes. The cessation of ignorance can only come when I know that God and I are one; in other words, identify yourself with Atman, not with human limitations. The idea that we are bound is only an illusion [Maya]. Freedom is inseparable from the nature of the Atman. This is ever pure, ever perfect, ever unchangeable.

— Adi Shankara’s commentary on Fourth Vyasa Sutra, Swami Vivekananda

Liberating our emotional bodies  from the outer world is the essence of the philosophy of detachment, which is “freedom from desire and consequently from suffering” – attachment being seen as a main cause of suffering in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Jainism. While I’m not much for isms, I’ll take spiritual paradigms built on philosophies of the mind over blind religious dogma any day of the week. I mean, who wants to learn more about how perfect Jesus was when the Hindus have Vairagya and Moksha?

Clearly I am on my journey and continuing to learn more about myself and the world, but I am deeply grateful to finally be able to understand that the gap between dreams and reality must either close or pass, for we only have so much time. This is no pressure, but is instead a truth I now understand, and one that drives me, pushes me to follow my heart, asking myself, what matters? What counts?

The answer, of course, always being: here, now.

I’m just now learning what that is; I used to think it was all just, “meh”, but then I realized it was just me.

A Case of Narcissism: in Defense of a Reborn Ego

All, Ancient Wisdom, Buddhism, Journal, motivation, MyFavoritez, Personal Mythology, Psychology, Quotations, Self-Actualizing, spirituality

I had to write this tonight because I am feeling really, really smart.

Like, I’m getting good at life.

But beyond stating the obvious, something lighthearted has been a long time coming – to myself and my writing. Yeah, that winter of 2014 took a long time to thaw – but, thank the 6 god, spring is here motherfuckers (Samuel L. Jackson voice).

If there was such thing as an apology letter – please understand that I write my exes Poems – then this is the antithesis of it. But I am not here to flex my ego; although, it’s not an entirely bad idea; you see, like any hyper self-aware and intelligent man with a hint of integrity, by my late twenties, my ego had become my arch nemesis – a foe whom I avowed to avenge my misery on.

And let me tell you, there is nothing like a major break up, followed by self-administered entheogenic therapy, to kill the ego. I mean, I murdered that motherfucker (Lawrence Black voice).

In the wake of my ego, I became obsessed with my own humility, which, ironically, is actually a terrible case of narcissism in itself – albeit a more unconscious one. But in my desire to become uber-humble, I became infinitely small. Dreams, ideas, feelings – everything – was atrophied. In hindsight, I cannot believe what I had become – and in honesty, it wasn’t the winter of 2014 that froze my soul like Winterfell, it was the winter of 2009.

But today, I am a long way from Seattle, and for the first time: glad.

Defeats are the one thing we will become anything in order to escape. And I did, I became the picture of defeat; in my effort to hide, I hid in plain sight from myself.

But this is life. I smile on it now. 

I smile because my ego has finally emerged from my shadow. From the dark night of the soul, to the aftermath and through the entire Jungian alchemical process, I have been through the Heroes Journey.

Welcome home Lawrence Black.

In my twenties I was a lot of things I wasn’t. But I see now that I also wasn’t a lot of the things I was. Yes, I have been reading lots of Zen literature (I recommend D.T. Suzuki to the uninitiated – Watts is for space cowboys).

I have also been reading the Upanishads, “Which contain some of the central philosophical concepts of Hinduism.” – to save you a google search.

And – like everything else in my life has and always will – these texts have come to me at exactly the right time.  Yes: this Western boy’s mind is starting to tilt heavily on an Eastern axis.

However, I am not writing this to espouse my evolved views, but – holy fuck – let me tell you, there is no better way to shake off the weight of Christian guilt in the collective unconscious than to read some shit written way before that shit was even a fucking thing (Sam Jackson voice).

I am constantly reminded today that a man’s beliefs are only his theories. Well, I got theories too bitch! (Law Black voice).

But returning to the Upanishads, they have shown me an entirely new way of thinking, of being, and of living a “spiritual life”, which is to say: a life in which one feels themselves worthy of having their own theories.

As Steve Jobs – a spiritual guy himself – said:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

And, as I recently quoted, I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me.

But those words from a movie – they really didn’t resonate with me the first time I watched The Departed – they really didn’t mean anything until I came to understand that Steve Jobs’ words held so much more weight than their logical and aesthetic appeal. It is only now that I see just how trapped I was by other people’s thinking – my own included.

But now, I get it. Yup, this could be us.

But it is so much more than just coming full circle after gaining compassion for myself, having seen life more objectively for the first time.

No, it is more than that: it is the Ego which took me here. Full circle.

Yes, I have vilified and called my ego 24601 for a long time; I have trashed the ego as wonderfully as the Gurus taught me to.

But, let me tell you, I was wrong. Whoops. Sorry life. Sorry Lawrence that I fucked up the last four years of your life (Save for Shannon, who is the greatest woman I have ever dated  – love you Bunny).

But yeah: I was oh so wrong – but it’s all good. It was my path. Love your fate, as I always say. And I am not mad at all now that I see what a salty motherfucker I was (Kenny Fucking Powers’ voice).

And like the Upanishads, this re-emergence of the ego (As spoofed excellently by Kenny Fucking Powers.) has arrived at the right time in my life.

And to thank, I have Brahman and Atman, as well as Ayn Rand’s Anthem and Marie Louise Von Franz’s writing on the function and value of the ego.

One sometimes feels that the unconscious is leading the way in accordance with a secret design… this creatively active aspect of the psychic nucleus can come into play only when the ego gets rid of all purposive and wishful aims and tries to get to a deeper, more basic form of existence. The ego must be able to listen attentively and to give itself, without any further design or purpose, to that inner urge toward growth. – M.L.V.F.

These three things – the concept of the Self as taught by the Upanishads, Ayn Rand’s heroic picture of the ego in Anthem, and Jung protege Marie Louise Von Franz’s understandings on the role of ego in individuation – have given me an far greater, more absolute understanding of my ego, and myself, than I have ever possessed (Well, excepting before I knew what my ego was and I again then had a healthy one). But this is now.

I was a fragile creature playing strong from 25 through 30, living in a glass castle, naked and afraid, but no longer – and I am not sorry that the emperor has finally seen his reflection; I just wish someone would have told me what a terrified little asshole I was. 

I know, I didn’t listen.

But hey, I just gotta laugh at it now.

And to really flex my ego like a human being with my DNA at this point in space and time should: I really feel whole; I feel complete. I will even go so far as to say that I have reached what Jung called individuation.

To quote C.G. Jung:

To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality in fact is.

Yes. All that dying I did down in the rabbit hole I spent the last five years of my life in (Save for some of the rare moments when I was actually happy, thanks in large part to B.S.W) paid off.

I made it. I know who I am.

Note to Jung fans: like the synchronicity with the Kenny Powers’ soundbites in that song? (See prev link dickhead).

P.S. As Jung wrote: “Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.” And now that my ego has joined the living again – joined to a healthy and cleansed soul – I have eyes. And I see the beautiful young girl who adores me, and I see my success this month, and I see myself happy – every single day. 

Lawrence, SKW, friends, family: I am sorry.

But, it could’t have been any different.

In conclusion: I am no longer just an asshole – now I am a reborn one. In my defense, it is so much better to be an asshole than to be miserable.

To thine own self be true.

With Love,

Me

p.p.s., I recall a dialogue between therapist number one and I (Back in the pre-Seattle days, when I picked therapists based on their looks), in which I said to her that I believed myself to be ‘slightly narcissistic’, to which she replied, “Yes Lawrence, all highly successful people are.” 

Maybe, maybe not, but I would rather be a happy narcissist than a fucking dickhead.

A Delightful Life

All, Ancient Wisdom, family, humanity, Journal, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Psychology, Writing

Delightful day; what more can I say; I ran, I hiked, I swam, I read, I cooked, I napped – I did everything but make love, which, in itself, is another kind of delightful day, just not the one written for today. But I conspire with fate for days like that too. I’m working on it, which is to say I am working on myself. And I’ll be damned if I’m not becoming a a really decent man. As Socrates wrote, “Make yourself the sort of man you want people to think you are.” I’d like people to think, to know, that I am the man I have always known myself to be but never before was. G-d willing if I shall fall in love a third time, I will be a man worthy of making love to. It sounds silly but nonetheless, I aspire to be so.

There was a time I thought two halves could make a whole. Today and evermore I know better, for I am whole – not alone but on my own – a Man: world unto himself; complete. I’m not looking for someone to make me feel home; the world is my home, my soul no longer restless. Wanderlust has faded into a dream I no longer dream, and I no longer desire to go back in time.

I go forward, I look ahead, my lust for life deepens with my understanding of myself; I know who I am, and it’s greater than the sum of things come and gone. I am everything I am and nothing I am not (or was).

But before anyone accuse me of an excess of esteem of self-idolatry, let me be the first to tell you, I am beyond not proud of the multitude of things I have wrongly done in my life. But I am not ashamed. Shame tends to self-perpetuate; and I’ve learned, as Alice Hubbert believed, that sin is it’s own punishment. As David Foster Wallace wrote: “The parts of me that used to think I was different or better than anyone almost killed me.” No, I am neither egoic or ashamed. I am a man.

He had his foibles, his faults, and even his crimes. That is to say, he was a man. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Yes, I am a man.

But I am trying to be more human than my mistakes, as Ric Elias so beautifully put it. And I am doing a good job at this. Besides, confidence is an aspect of the soul; however, the confidence of the soul arises from wholeness, knowing yourself, virtue and vice alike – unlike the confidence of the ego, which believes it is different or better than anyone else. No, I am not good, I am whole. My heroes are no longer the Edmund Dantes’, the martyrs; my heroes are the Jean Valjeans, the true heroes, those who acheive victory over the enemy within. There is no other adversary that has defeated as many men as man himself. This is the battle each man is conscripted to fight, for victory over the self brings a peace as sweet as the defeat is sour. As the French proverb says, there is no pillow softer than a clean conscience.

And this is my pillow. I rest in the bosom of my soul, as only a man at peace with himself can.

Victory over the self is not the ego death as the guru promises, but a kind of armistice, an agreement which is upheld in the daily care of the soul and communion of the spirit.

There is no resting on ones laurels when the lions come at night. Changing ones thinking is not sufficient in itself; a new way of being, of relating to life, requires surrender, which is half of the battle. This is where right action begins, in surrendering the self to the soul rather than sacrificing the soul to the self. For me this required that I form a new relationship with myself, a relationship with my soul. One in which my soul is not only a conscious part of myself but the dominate aspect of my conciousness.  The mind, when left in charge, places the soul in exile. Security, true security, comes from being able to trust in your inner voice.

That begins slowly, for first it requires being able to hear it. Modern life has silenced man’s communion with the soul by tearing down the channels man used for centuries to understand and acess his higher self. Myth, great literature, religion, ritual, these are all dead and dying arts. The Matrix is simply a life deprived of all these bridges. The job of the shaman is to teach these. I wish to be a doctor of the soul as Jung was. This is my art, my dreams, dreams birthed through the nightmare I made of my life. But the nightmare is over. I’ve graduated. And today, I have true security, unshakable inner peace.

Fuck wit me you know I got it. – Jay Z

While I may not be [“good”], life is. My second cup of tea now cold, I will collect myself from the sandy spot I am on and walk home to read and retire for the night.

I have dreams to live and life awaits me tomorrow. A life in which I am an aspiring doctor of the soul, an artist in the highest sense. A life in which I am whole, a man worthy of making love to. A life I am building to share with the family of my dreams. A delightful life.

Walks home listening to Taylor Swift FTW

On Religion as a Bridge to The Soul

All, Ancient Wisdom, humanity, MyFavoritez, Personal Mythology, Philosophy, Psychology, religion, Self-Actualizing, spirituality, Timeless Truths, Zen

“If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life, and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off-center; he has aligned himself with a programmatic life, and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.”

– Joseph Campbell


Reflecting, as I often do, I can today see how spiritually and psychologically unhealthy I was in a time now gone. How fortunate was I for the adversity that delivered me to a place dark enough to find hope.

I’m reminded of the Latin root of the word adversity: adverture; meaning: to turn towards. For it is only when we face what ails us that we may grow beyond it.

Adversity is not transcended or surmounted but moved through like a dark mountain pass. Denial, avoidance, repression, self-deception – these only ground us in the uncomfortable place, fating our gaze upon the mount; for whether we choose to recognize the splinter in our eye or not, it is there, showing itself in the myriad of complexes and ways a human being can choose to suffer and hate.

However, those dealt adversity often create problems rather than face what they feel they cannot; and often, the struggles a person faces are engendered as outlets for pains they find inadmissable – pains lost in the chasm between the mind and the spirit.

As a result of this gulf in the heart, man is cut him off from his inner world. Diagnosing the ills of the soul is then seen as a mental problem, addressable only through therapy or self-help. There do, however, exist other doctors for the soul, we just don’t believe in them anymore.

The priest and the church once provided a doorway to the inner world and the sanctum through which a man could live life connected to his soul through a higher power; however, the institution of religion is growingly dismissed as nothing more than a dogmatic farce, instituted to control the ignorant populous. Unfortunately, it happens to be an effective one.

The name of G-d has been wielded to enshroud evil in the name of good since biblical times, but the cost of blood spilled and enemies born under the auspices of religion has been the destruction of a bridge to the sacred for many. Unable to perceive the inherent good of something so historically detrimental to man, we’ve chosen rationality in favor of an evil we no longer wish to tolerate in the 21st century. And rightly so.

However, in recognizing the evils of religion in it’s ability to inspire ignorance – as seen in wars and the beliefs that so doggedly divide the human tribe – we are quick to dismiss it in its entirety. As a result of this turning away from G-d, we are shunning something, which, at the personal level, has enabled man to better face his inner battles since before the wheel.

It’s logical to buy into the intelligent argument posited by Carl Sagan that primitive humans invented Gods so we could explain the unexplainable, things which science has now given cause to (think lighting and famine); however, such an argument dismisses the value of intangibles like hope – the only thing a man with nothing left has.

Beyond hope, ritualistic tools such as prayer and worship of the sacred provide humans with an active and cathartic relationship with the soul, which we may call G-d.

How few of us dialogue with the inner world, which as modern psychology has discovered (the subconscious and unconscious) so greatly influences our thoughts and behaviors.

I’m merely thinking aloud here, sitting on the sand at night typing this on my phone, but on my own journey I’ve found spiritual health and as a result I am happier and more at peace than I’ve ever been. My adversities are no longer a cancer, setting wildfire to my life, but, rather, they are the weeds that show me the root issues I need to attend to in order to grow so that I might maintain wholeness in the face of the constant change of life.

Carl Jung believed that there was no neurosis that could not be cured by adopting a religious outlook on life. I too share this belief. And I worry that, regardless of its timeless effectiveness, this solution may be growing increasingly inaccessible as religion’s validity in the collective consciousness continues to decline.

I worry because I think that – again echoing Jung – man needs religion. At least, to achieve the unshakable inner peace I have today, I know I do.

I’m not advising you to look to religion for your soul to be saved, but I am asking that you consider the spiritual as a means of rescuing your soul from exile – for to live cut off from the soul is to live deaf to an inner voice that’s begging to be heard – often in the most painful and eventually effective of ways; however, some may have to wait until hope is all they have left.

It’s not by coincidence that I used to pray only when things got terribly bad or that things no longer get terribly bad. I ascribe this power to the soul as much as to a G-d. To me they are one in the same, the bridge leading to eachother.

Homefree

All, Ancient Wisdom, Poetry, Timeless Truths

They told me home is where the heart is,
So I roamed the world homeless and broken-hearted

One person,
You can let one person destroy you

But that’s not all there is to life –

For tonight I found myself under a rain splatted roof,
Unsure and at ill-ease

And no sooner had this feeling befallen me,
Than I had a vision:
Our Ancestors, under a night-sky – Wild, Scared, Free

And this gave me a memory,
A knowing deep in my bones –
A feeling that the world Itself was to be my home

And the ancients spoke, speaking:
“If you do not make yourself home in the world now, you will never.”

So tonight
I am alone –
But I am home

For ‘tho it may be just me –
I know right here,
This is as home as I’ll ever be

So, if you’re reading this now, know,
You are Home,
You are Free

Zoom Way Out

All, Ancient Wisdom, humanity, Meditating, meditation, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, spirituality, stoicism, Timeless Truths

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.

 

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

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

Gaining a Sense of Your Own Destiny Through Personal Mythology

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

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

world_against_me

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

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

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

What Makes a Hero: Must Watch


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

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

Update: 11/8/2014

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

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


Future Reading on Myth as a Mirror For The Ego

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

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

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

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

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

Heather Evans on Personal Myths as Limiting Slogans

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

Personal Myth as Story Reading List

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

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

Interested in changing your stories?

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

Finding True Jedi Wisdom in an Ancient Text: The Mind of Absolute Trust

All, Ancient Wisdom, Buddhism, meditation, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, spirituality, Timeless Truths, Zen

Preface: I Guess I’m a Star Wars Geek

Having recently spent time reading Jospeph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, and The Power of Myth, I felt compelled to watch the first Star Wars trilogy last weekend (George Lucas used Campbell’s work as part of the blueprint for the Star Wars story). It was a genuine pleasure to enjoy these wonderful treasures of film-making and storytelling, and at twenty-nine years old I felt as deeply enthralled with the myth and metaphor of the Jedi as I intrinsically did as a child. (Fitting, as I have the words of Yoda: “There is no try” tattooed – tastefully – on me.)

But beyond merely feeling captivated by the Jedi characters and their use of the force, I truly seek to embody a similarly elite level of self-discipline, mastery and heightened spiritual awareness in my own, very real life.

So, what’s a real life Jedi to do? Simple, study the trill (true+real) wisdom of the ancients, which no doubt inspired quotes like the following.

By Jin Zan (Own work) Via Wikimedia Commons

By Jin Zan (Own work) Via Wikimedia Commons

Introduction and Background

Which brings me to a 6th century Chinese poem known as The Mind of Absolute Trust, or The Inscription of Faith in Mind (Chinese: Xinxin Ming).

According to Wikipedia, the poem has been much beloved by Zen practitioners for over a thousand years, and applies Taoist terminology to the Buddhist context of awakeningprofessing the need to take pleasant and unpleasant life experiences with a sense of equanimity and broadly speaking, deals with the principles and practice of non-duality – that is, with the application of nonduality and the results of its practice.

Note: While I am not yet acquainted with the full depth and color of the text, I am already taken by the clear and poignant richness of it’s wisdom, which shines through from the first read. As someone who believes spirituality is about practices as much or more than experiences, I immediately knew this was a work I needed to integrate into my daily routine – hence, why I am publishing this: I am going to read this each morning – part of my training as a Jedi – plus, it’s very soothing and aligning. Having gone relatively deep on my spiritual journey thus far, I intuitively knew as soon as I came across this (whilst researching nondualism) that it was fated for me to internalize and call forth this wisdom as part of my daily waking consciousness – ahem, I mean to say that my inner Yoda told me this was part of my path to becoming a Jedi Knight : ) 

The source of the text is attributed to Chien-chih Seng Ts’an (modern Western spelling: Jianzhi Sengcan), the Third Patriarch of Chan (Zen) Buddhism; however, much like the Tao Te Ching, it’s authorship is not definitive; although, I quite enjoyed the story that when Seng Ts’an approached his teacher, Dazu Huike , and requested be accepted under his tutelage, Huike exclaimed: “You are riddled with leprosy, and yet you come to me?”, to which Seng Ts’an replied, “Well, maybe my body is sick. But the internal heart-mind of a diseased one is still the same as the internal heart-mind of a whole man; how, then, is my heart different from your heart-mind?” Impressed with this insight, Huike took him on as a student.

Whether Seng Ts’an authored the work or not is a relatively moot point today – the miracle isn’t in the poem’s author, but in it’s message, which is so everlasting and timeless that it’s still applicable 2,500 years later. I love not relying on new age booksellers to tell me how to live. I prefer going straight to the source and integrating true ancient wisdom directly into my modern life. This to me is a true honor and one of the great privileges of applying a touch of intellectualism to my spirituality. I get genuinely excited about things like this.

It’s important to note that the poem’s original text was not divided into stanzas. This was something I was worried about  as the translations below have been taken from various non-copyrighted sources, and as such I was unsure of their fidelity to the translator’s original structure; however, given that the lines were grouped into stanzas in modern times, I might as well decide on my own where they should go (tongue in cheek).

I’ve included three popular translations below, though like many known ancient works, a myriad of translations exist.

Note: Grab a PDF (for those non-internet situations) of the three translations here.

Eventually, I will likely gravitate towards one specific translation, as I have found with the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, but for now I’m inclined to prefer the Clarke translation; although, comparing translations certainly helps you better elucidate your own interpretation of the intended meaning.

Enjoy my dear reader, I hope this profits your soul on the path to Jedi Knighthood as it does mine. Together, we will both learn to use The Force (or The Source).

P.S. – I look forward to again writing on this subject [The Mind of Absolute Trust] at some point in the future.

Thank you to Sunday is For Lovers for turning me onto the Richard B. Clarke translation.


The Mind of Absolute Trust

Richard B. Clarke Translation

至道無難 The Great Way is not difficult
唯嫌揀擇 for those who have no preferences.
但莫憎愛 When love and hate are both absent
洞然明白 everything becomes clear and undisguised.
毫釐有差 Make the smallest distinction, however
天地懸隔 and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
欲得現前 If you wish to see the truth
莫存順逆 then hold no opinions for or against anything.
違順相爭 To set up what you like against what you dislike
是爲心病 is the disease of the mind.
不識玄旨 When the deep meaning of things is not understood
徒勞念靜 the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

圓同太虚 The Way is perfect like vast space
無欠無餘 where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
良由取捨 Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
所以不如 that we do not see the true nature of things.
莫逐有縁 Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
勿住空忍 nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
一種平懷 Be serene in the oneness of things
泯然自盡 and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
止動歸止 When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
止更彌動 your very effort fills you with activity.
唯滯兩邊 As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
寧知一種 you will never know Oneness.

一種不通 Those who do not live in the single Way
兩處失功 fail in both activity and passivity,
遣有沒有 assertion and denial. To deny the reality of things
從空背空 to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality.
多言多慮 The more you talk and think about it,
轉不相應 the further astray you wander from the truth.
絶言絶慮 Stop talking and thinking,
無處不通 and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
歸根得旨 To return to the root is to find the meaning,
隨照失宗 but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
須臾返照 At the moment of inner enlightenment
勝卻前空 there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
前空轉變 The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
皆由妄見 we call real only because of our ignorance.
不用求眞 Do not search for the truth;
唯須息見 only cease to cherish opinions.

二見不住 Do not remain in the dualistic state
慎莫追尋 avoid such pursuits carefully.
纔有是非 If there is even a trace of this and that, of right and wrong,
紛然失心 the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
二由一有 Although all dualities come from the One,
一亦莫守 do not be attached even to this One.
一心不生 When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
萬法無咎 nothing in the world can offend,
無咎無法 and when a thing can no longer offend, it ceases to exist in the old way.

不生不心 When no discriminating thoughts arise, the old mind ceases to exist.
能隨境滅 When thought objects vanish, the thinking-subject vanishes,
境逐能沈 as when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.
境由能境 Things are objects because of the subject (mind);
能由境能 the mind (subject) is such because of things (object).
欲知兩段 Understand the relativity of these two
元是一空 and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
一空同兩 In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
齊含萬象 and each contains in itself the whole world.
不見精麁 If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
寧有偏黨 you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

大道體寛 To live in the Great Way
無易無難 is neither easy nor difficult,
小見狐疑 but those with limited views
轉急轉遲 and fearful and irresolute: the faster they hurry, the slower they go,
執之失度 and clinging (attachment) cannot be limited;
必入邪路 even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment is to go astray.
放之自然 Just let things be in their own way
體無去住 and there will be neither coming nor going.

任性合道 Obey the nature of things (your own nature),
逍遙絶惱 and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
繋念乖眞 When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
昏沈不好 for everything is murky and unclear,
不好勞神 and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.
何用疏親 What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations?

欲取一乘 If you wish to move in the One Way
勿惡六塵 do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
六塵不惡 Indeed, to accept them fully
還同正覺 is identical with true Enlightenment.
智者無爲 The wise man strives to no goals
愚人自縛 but the foolish man fetters himself.
法無異法 This is one Dharma, not many: distinctions arise
妄自愛著 from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
將心用心 To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind
豈非大錯 is the greatest of all mistakes.

迷生寂亂 Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
悟無好惡 with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
一切二邊 All dualities come from
妄自斟酌 ignorant inference.
夢幻虚華 They are like dreams of flowers in the air:
何勞把捉 foolish to try to grasp them.
得失是非 Gain and loss, right and wrong:
一時放卻 such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

眼若不睡 If the eye never sleeps,
諸夢自除 all dreams will naturally cease.
心若不異 If the mind makes no discriminations,
萬法一如 the ten thousand things are as they are, of single essence.
一如體玄 To understand the mystery of this One-essence
兀爾忘虚 is to be release from all entanglements.
萬法齊觀 When all things are seen equally
歸復自然 the timeless Self-essence is reached.
泯其所以 No comparisons or analogies are possible
不可方比 in this causeless, relationless state.

止動無動 Consider movement stationary and the stationary in motion,
動止無止 both movement and rest disappear.
兩既不成 When such dualities cease to exist
一何有爾 Oneness itself cannot exist.
究竟窮極 To this ultimate finality
不存軌則 no law or description applies.

契心平等 For the unified mind in accord with the Way
所作倶息 all self-centered straining ceases.
狐疑盡淨 Doubts and irresolution’s vanish
正信調直 and life in true faith is possible.
一切不留 With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
無可記憶 nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
虚明自照 All is empty , clear, self-illuminating,
不勞心力 with no exertion of the mind’s power.
非思量處 Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination
識情難測 are of no value.
眞如法界 In this world of Suchness
無他無自 there is neither self nor other-than-self

要急相應 To come directly into harmony with this reality
唯言不二 just simply say when doubt arises, ‘Not two.’
不二皆同 In this ‘no two’ nothing is separate,
無不包容 nothing excluded.
十方智者 No matter when or where,
皆入此宗 enlightenment means entering this truth.
宗非促延 And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space;
一念萬年 in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

無在不在 Emptiness here, Emptiness there,
十方目前 but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.
極小同大 Infinitely large and infinitely small;
忘絶境界 no difference, for definitions have vanished
極大同小
不見邊表 and no boundaries are seen.
有即是無 So too with Being
無即是有 and non-Being.
若不如此 Don’t waste time in doubts and arguments
必不相守 that have nothing to do with this.

一即一切 One thing, all things:
一切即一 move among and intermingle, without distinction.
但能如是 To live in this realization
何慮不畢 is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
信心不二 To live in this faith is the road to non-duality,
不二信心 Because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.

言語道斷 Words! The Way is beyond language,
非去來今 for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.


Stephen Mitchell Translation

The great way isn’t difficult for those who are unattached to their preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion, and everything will be perfectly clear.
When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction, heaven and earth are set apart.
If you want to realize the truth, don’t be for or against.
The struggle between good and evil is the primal disease of the mind.
Not grasping the deeper meaning, you just trouble your minds serenity.

As vast as infinite space, it is perfect and lacks nothing.
But because you select and reject, you can’t perceive its true nature.
Don’t get entangled in the world; don’t lose yourself in emptiness.
Be at peace in the oneness of things, and all errors will disappear by themselves.

If you don’t live the Tao, you fall into assertion or denial.
Asserting that the world is real, you are blind to its deeper reality;
denying that the world is real, you are blind to the selflessness of all things.
The more you think about these matters, the farther you are from the truth.
Step aside from all thinking, and there is nowhere you can’t go.
Returning to the root, you find the meaning;
chasing appearances, you lose their source.

At the moment of profound insight, you transcend both appearance and emptiness.
Don’t keep searching for the truth; just let go of your opinions.
For the mind in harmony with the Tao, all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt, you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free, with nothing left to hold on to.

All is empty, brilliant, perfect in its own being.
In the world of things as they are, there is no self, no non self.
If you want to describe its essence, the best you can say is “Not-two.”
In this “Not-two” nothing is separate, and nothing in the world is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places have entered into this truth.
In it there is no gain or loss; one instant is ten thousand years.

There is no here, no there; infinity is right before your eyes.
The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished;
the vast is as small as the tiny when you don’t have external limits.

Being is an aspect of non-being; non-being is no different from being.
Until you understand this truth, you won’t see anything clearly.
One is all; all are one. When you realize this, what reason for holiness or wisdom?

The mind of absolute trust is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace, for in it there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow.


Robert F. Olson Translation

The Great Way isn’t difficult
for those who are unattached to their preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion,
and everything will be perfectly clear.
When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction, heaven and earth are set apart.
If you want to realize the truth,
don’t be for or against.
The struggle between good and evil
is the primal disease of the mind.
Not grasping the deeper meaning,
you just trouble your mind’s serenity.
As vast as infinite space,
it is perfect and lacks nothing.
But because you select and reject,
you can’t perceive its true nature.
Don’t get entangled in the world;
don’t lose yourself in emptiness.
Be at peace in the oneness of things,
and all errors will disappear by themselves.

If you don’t live the Tao,
you fall into assertion or denial.
Asserting that the world is real,
you are blind to its deeper reality;
denying that the world is real,
you are blind to the selflessness of all things.
The more you think about these matters,
the farther you are from the truth.
Step aside from all thinking,
and there is nowhere you can’t go.
Returning to the root, you find the meaning; chasing appearances, you lose their source.
At the moment of profound insight,
you transcend both appearance and emptiness.
Don’t keep searching for the truth;
just let go of your opinions.
For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt,
you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free,
with nothing left to hold on to.
All is empty, brilliant,
perfect in its own being.
In the world of things as they are,
there is no self, no non-self.
If you want to describe its essence,
the best you can say is “Not-two.”

For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
all selfishness disappears.

With not even a trace of self-doubt,
you can trust the universe completely.
In this “Not-two” nothing is separate,
and nothing in the world is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places
have entered into this truth.
In it there is no gain or loss;
one instant is ten thousand years.
There is no here, no there;
infinity is right before your eyes.
The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished;
the vast is as small as the tiny,
when you don’t have external limits.
Being is an aspect of non-being;
non-being is no different from being.
Until you understand this truth,
you won’t see anything clearly.
One is all; all are one. When
you realize this, what reason for holiness or wisdom?
The mind of absolute trust
is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace; for in it
there is no yesterday,
no tomorrow,
no today.