Pursuit of Calm #8

Being the start of the new fiscal year, all of us gainfully employed will soon, begin preparing our tax returns. Income statements will be received from employers and forms submitted to the tax office declaring our income and expenses.
I received my income statement at the beginning of the week and had to smile (I actually laughed out loud) at how much money I made this past financial year…allow me to rephrase that.…how much money I didn’t make.

Those of you familiar with these posts will know that over 3 years ago I decided to recalibrate how I spent my days. Simply put, and ultimately following in the footsteps of Aristotle‘s main preoccupation, the task I had assigned myself was ‘how to be happy’…how to live a (more) meaningful and sustained way…two things that my inebriated distracted past-self either blindly ignored or pursued via my credit card…spend, spend, chop, chop…

Now allow me to premise this by saying, these days I tend to avoid using the word ‘happy’ as a ‘life-goal’. I prefer ‘fulfilment’ as a desired ‘wellbeing-metric’. I tend to view happiness as an emotion, and similarly, like all our  emotions – anger, sadness, joy, trust, fear, surprise – I believe that as humans we need to both recognise, experience and (attempt to) have a sober-grasp on all these emotions. (I think) It’s by practicing to lean into, embrace and understand the scope and breathe our emotions is where we find our lessons, our calm, and an opportunity to build resilience.
By understanding the impact our emotions have on ourselves, then we’re better abled to see emotions for what they are (like the weather, they come and go) – and as a result, be less implicated by their ability to escalate and trigger our less than desirable thinking and doing behaviours.

“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger
than the causes of it.”
– Marcus Aurelius

Anyways, I digressed, back to Aristotle…and happiness.

The Greeks use the word eudaemonia: variously translated as ‘fulfilment’ ‘happiness’ or my personal favourite ‘human-flourishing’ . It is the sense that we have achieved our purpose in life; that our particular combination of talents and drives have attained their most ideal end. It is the feeling that we have found our fitting place in the cosmos.

Who would of thought…achieving eudaemonia is no simple task: most of us will spend our lives embarked upon the search. Yet our search is more likely to bear fruit if we begin by investing in two key areas: self knowledge and resilience. Namely, by gaining a deeper awareness of our personal sources of meaning, and building up emotional strength (calm) required to achieve it.

(My) Prescription For Living
Being the complete novice that I am, I have by no means ‘achieved it’ but, and as I eluded to in a previous post, each and everyday I find myself curiouser and curiouser as to how to continue to seek and, possibly, ‘achieve it’.
And I have to say that it’s by deliberately practicing each & every day to exercise and build my emotional strength (calm) is where I find my innate enthusiastic joy, and the motivated courage, to seek and face the obstacles that I need to overcome (and ‘by jove’ there’s a few) to continue to improve my self-knowledge and manifest resilience.
Simply, I find my own fulfilment / eudaemonia in the daily processes and disciplined routines that make up my day.

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Now, if you were to breakdown my ‘waking-week’, I expense around 20% of my time to “working”, as in, earning money. The remainder of my time is spent practicing, with as little distraction as possible (that’s a practice in itself), the ‘living-skills’ that harvest me optimal health & strength,  consistent energy & vitality, satiation & calm…my bespoke recipe for eudaemonia.

Being single and with no dependants, my lifestyle situation places me in a unique position to make fairly robust financial sacrifices and lifestyle choices to allow me to dedicate the majority of my time to this passion-project called HowIWantToLiveMyLife.

Essentially my days are split into two priorities:
Calmative activities: sleep, breathe-work, meditation, gentle exercise, staring out the window, cognitive and physiological nourishment from nutrient dense foods, reading, studying, writing, reflecting, enjoying the natural elements, and doing everything I can to ensure I sleep solidly every night. Plus there’s a new addition to my day…feeding a willy wagtail that has befriended me❤️

I’m also actively engaged in…
Positive stress testing activities (or ‘Eustress’: my next topic): which includes my physical training – breathe-work, bodyweight & weights strength work, cycling & running. Being disciplined by ‘adulting-myself’ with my nutritional choices in terms of food quality, quantity and timing (TRE). Being committed to learning new stuff – reading, writing, studying. My minimalist-living approach offers plenty of opportunities to challenge myself – in terms of how I eat, shop, budget etc. I even approach my work-commitments, as little as they are, as the perfect opportunity to positive stress-test myself. “Work” as in dealing with clients, stressed-out customers, low morale staff, unfiltered opinions & feedback, all offer exceptional ‘real-world’ opportunities to witness how I respond, or don’t respond – how I manage my calm, and control my breathe…there’s no better coliseum to practice than ‘be-ing at work.’

And the most rewarding thing about this is…I f**** up every day.

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“Dwell on the beauty of life.
Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
– Marcus Aurelius

My “end of financial year income statement” told me two things:
1. This is the least I’ve ever worked & earn’t in my entire adult life…derr
2. That I am on the right path. At the age of 54 – I have never been more content, fulfilled, healthier, curious and calm than I am right now.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s moments in my days when my mind goes awry and I think that I need this or that…or my self-worth gets rattled because I’ve judged myself against others. But having ‘access to my calm’ allows me the gift of ‘immediate reflection’, where I can view & remedy my thoughts in situ as a distant observer, rather than allow the ego to dictate and negatively escalate my mindset.

Just keep in mind: The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.

-Epictetus

 

The only thing permanent is change
The really exciting part that I see ahead of me is how my prescription for living will morph, expand, shrink and change as the years years roll-by.
As I get older, my awareness & understanding, my wants and needs will all evolve – and this will require an adjustment to my lifestyle choices. It’s exciting because it’s these choices that I have control over, and it’s these choices that will see me continue to, as a human, flourish.

By accepting that all we can control are our actions and our values is a simpler, calmer and more empowering way to live.

 “Happiness is a state and the state in question is where you, the individual, have a firm basis and place to do the work you need to do; the grief you need to go through; the people you need to encounter and the help you need to give people around you.”
–  Prof AC Grayling
British philosopher and author

 

Ask Yourself: How many more summers do I have left?