FROM WORRIER TO (NOVICE) WARRIOR
As I walked out of my bathroom the other morning, I was struck with the realisation that I have been living in my current apartment for nearly 3 years now.
This was certainly by no means an epiphany moment by any stretch, but what dawned on me was that ‘I think’ that this maybe the longest I’ve lived in one location (as in either, a house, apartment, city, state or country) in my entire adult life.
Now, I say ‘I think’ because there’s some dusty years in my back catalogue…but I’m confident that I’m not that far off in my estimations.
This thought brought a curious smile to my face…I then proceeded to chuckle to myself and say ‘what the hell was I doing?’.
I then confidently said ‘I now know exactly what I was doing’.
“Flux” Was My Comfort Zone.
Since leaving high-school, I’ve been galavanting non-stop from place to place, state to state, and country to country. At the age of 17-18, I can still remember feeling completely ‘claustrophobic’ living in Perth, and that ‘I had to get away’.
I’m still unsure why I felt this way, however upon sober-reflection I’m pretty sure this sense of claustrophobia was seeded much earlier my life.
So without further ado, I embraced this state of inertia deciding that the best course of action would be to ‘move’ overseas. Which I did, and pursued my nomadic lifestyle with staggering levels of immaturity & fearless-gusto...a potentially dangerous combination, especially combined with my innate confidence levels.
Was I Destined to Be A Nomad?
From all reports I was brazen as a child. Literally, as soon as I could walk, if Mum turned her back for a minute, I’d make a run for it.
We had no TV back then, so with the soundtrack to the six-million dollar manrunning through my ears, I’d escape at every opportunity. Doing my best Steve Austin impersonation I’d run up the street to find a house, any house, that had a TV.
And ‘apparently’ I’d just walk in to this strangers house like I owned the place (front doors were never locked back then), find the lounge room, plonk myself down and turn on their TV.
All the whilst Mum was madly running around the neighbourhood looking for me.
So by the time I left high school I was again ready to make a run for it, and had already planned my exit strategy from Australia…next stop, London.
That was the beginning of nearly 30 odd years of transience. And what was to become a self-constructed (negative) feedback loop that saw me constantly arriving and departing, stoping and starting afresh…in every sense of the word.
At the time I seemed to relish new challenges that I threw myself into (at least that what I told myself), new jobs, new countries, new people – If I wasn’t it a state of constant flux, then I wasn’t living...man.
And the ‘beauty’ of this lifestyle that I had constructed is that it came with a very convenient automatic default mechanism. As soon as things got too hard, too difficult, too permanent – I’d leave.
It was perfect.
Knowing that when I got fed up, bored, too challenged, or on a couple of occasions too coked-up, I could pack up my balling ball and limp off and disappear faster than Keyser Söze…and where I’d continue remaining a fugitive from myself.
Looking back I can (now) laugh at the stories I’d tell myself, that would support and continue to encourage this Houdinieque lifestyle of mine.
Oh, how times have changed…
Fast forward to March last year – and COVID:19 came a knocking.
We all experienced (initially anyway) that completely foreign and surreal experience of the first shut-down…that, and the great toilet-paper-shortage of 2020.
The inertia that that generated in all of us was…well…really foreign and surreal.
However for me, and after the initial ‘well this is a bit fucking weird’ reaction had passed, I found the whole lock-down phase bloody enjoyable.
Aside from further luxuriating myself in my self-imposed exile, I actually (and naively) fantasied that this would be an opportune time for the human race to recalibrate, reexamine and refocus our energies, and begin to properly address some rather urgent global issues – such as climate change, re-wilding our environment, and the general survival of our species, especially when it cumsto our plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity – read the article…yikes!
For me the 18-24 months leading up to Covid had been, by choice, spent incredibly quietly. This choice to exile myself in my fortress of solitude, was a decision I made after yet another ‘collapse’ finessed by yours-truly.
Once again I found myself returning to Australia, after a 3 year stint in France, with another relationship coming to an end, and again, arriving ‘home’…broke…in every sense of the word.
I thought, ‘G’sus, not again…I didn’t even mean to do it and it’s happened…again’
“A man will renounce any pleasure you like but he will not give up his suffering.”
– George Gurdjieff
Why was I still making my life so difficult for myself?
What I found particularly grating this time was this.
Here I am… healthy, fit, strong & sober, relatively intelligent, hard working, friendly and incredibly funny…enjoys walks a long the beach and candle lit dinners, yet… I still seemed to be not only addicted to making the same choices, but being surprised by the outcomes.
(when I say choices, I am casting no aspersions or implicating anyone else whatsoever, but me)
With the word “failure” percolating once again in my mind, I decided that not only did something have to change, but I had to change my approach…completely.
“You show your worth by what you seek.”
– Rumi (my old flatmate)
I Have To Do The Work
So following advice that I had gleaned from my early Greek, Stoic & Buddhist brothers and sisters – I made the decision to ‘tap-out and find out’ why I kept doing what I kept doing.
And what I mean by tap-out is dedicate and ‘resource myself’ with as much time as I could.
I was determined to not only learn, but also, as I do when I go to the gym, train…put into real-world practice and train myself in the philosophical self-awareness tools that have been advocated for millennia, by the likes of Aristotle, Socrates, Calvin & Hobbs, Seneca, Chödrön, Aurelius, Pluto (as in all dogs), Epictetus, Buddha, Bach, and Cohen…as in Leonard.
Calvin & Hobbs
To practice-properly, to invest the required amount of time (exertion), and the manifest the required intention (commitment), I pursued these disciplines and established new rituals and routines that that would perpetuate steadfast, sober & deliberate action, a much different approach to every attempt in the preceding decades,
These rituals & routines encompassed:-
– Deliberately practice minimalism, and actively seek & cull distraction
– Breathe my breath: Installed a disciplined daily meditation practice – both static and active forms of meditation
– Honour my sleep and recovery.
– I ‘addressed my stress’ and self-investigated, with kindness and humour, why and what gets me agitated & triggered.
– Continue to celebrate and invest in my body and mind through cooking & nutrition and TRE, plus movement and strength
– Read & study philosophy & psychology e.g. Calvin & Hobbs
– Engage in joy – for me, music, dogs, outdoors, snoozes, listening to the birds outside and talk to the willie wagtail’s that come and sit and dance on my balcony.
What is the aim of rituals and routines?
Rituals are not just decorative, they are formative
Practicing a ritual is really ‘practicing’
If you’re practicing to play the piano, you’re going to become a better player
If your ritual contains a list of 3 or 4 things that you can either practice, or be grateful for – you are cultivating a capacity for improvement, or for increased levels generosity & patience
By practicing these rituals we’re choosing, over and over, to become a certain person
Rituals demand sober conscious thinking & action, the more conscious we are, the more present we are.
When we’re ‘here’, we’re not ‘there’, ‘there’ or ‘there’
Our ‘wellbeing’ is grounded in our ‘nowbeing’
The Path from Worrier to Warrior
The term warrior, or similar, is used in many philosophical and spiritual teachings. The Buddhist Warrior is a spiritual term for one who combats the universal enemy of self-ignorance – which is the ultimate source of suffering according to Buddhist philosophy. Buddha’s teachings are known as “dharma.” He taught that wisdom, kindness, patience, generosity andcompassion were important virtues.
Another example, the Stoic’s often use the term Inner-Citadel – teachings to develop self control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions. The Stoics live by 4 virtues Wisdom, Justice, Courage & Moderation.
Wisdom is subdivided into good sense, good calculation, quick-wittedness, discretion, and resourcefulness
Being such an hilarious bastard, one of the key reasons I devote so much time to Buddhist and Stoic philosophy is they both identify humour as an essential value.
And it’s ‘values’ that have really come to the forefront for me, over the past 24-36 months.
I’m learning to not only know my values, but to live by them, examine them regularly, and most importantly, not compromising my life choices, by funnelling all my choices and decisions through the prism of my values.
“Values are like fingerprints.
Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”
– Elvis Presley
I read somewhere that life fulfilment and ‘happiness’ will more far more challenging to realise, if our life choices are in constant conflict with our innate values.
Our values reflect what is important to us in life. They are often referred to as our personal guiding principles or life goals. While we may have a variety of shorter term goals that are specific to a situation, like getting a job or a promotion, running a marathon, or visiting Japan, our values are life-goals that are not specific to any one situation.
Values guide our behaviour in all aspects of our life, including our home life, our work life and our social life. I’d also argue that our values, or more precisely, when we live according to, or align ourselves with our values – that our whole approach to our well-being, and ‘managing’ our wellbeing, will be vastly, vastly improved
Three ways to find out if you’re living by your values.
1. Know what your values are
2. You look to your values when faced with decisions — big or small
3. You regularly affirm and check in with your values
Living by your values is an exercise in disciplined mindfulness. And once you recognise the importance of valuing your values – then, by default, you become less prone to behaviours and habits that conflict with your values.
THE WISDOM OF NO ESCAPE
Now the title to this article is a variation to the above paragraph title – a title I ‘borrowed’ from Pema Chrödrön’s epic book of the same name.
When it comes to wisDUMB, I’m clumsily attempting to use word-play to describe the ‘lessons’ (the problems) that we create for ourselves, via our ignorant, immature, reactive, inebriated, distracted and subconscious actions and choices that we made – as a response to how we interpreted our world as we grew up and continue to mature.
WisDUMB and Wisdom are different side of the same coin – we glean our wisdom from our wisDUMB
What (I think) I’m learning is when we keep ourselves at arms-length, such as use alcohol, subject ourselves to poor lifestyle choices, or commit a life to distraction, is in effect our subconscious efforts to keep our wisDUMB well and truly buried.
Embracing and befriending our wisDUMB is challenging and confrontational to say the least…but what’s the alternative?
We must bring our own light to the darkness
If we keep ourselves in the dark and avoid our innate wisdom – wisdom that encapsulates our very own set innate values, then I think we’ll have a propensity to remain in conflict with ourselves – and be inclined to continue to use the detrimental vices & the distractions that keep us fugitives from ourbeing…’stuck’ in our very own negative feedback loop.
It’s All Workable…you can’t one without the other.
The gorgeous irony of this journey is that I now know that I am exactly where I should be, largely, if not wholly due to every past choice I’ve made.
Everything that I am (continuing to) learning about myself is being gleaned from a process of examining and befriending all my self-ignorant, (fucked up) decisions, choices and actions – yes, many were regrettable, embarrassing, hurtful, stupid…but there’s also so many incredible moments of wow, of sheer exhilaration, idiotic lovely love, and all the interaction and connection with the sights, sounds, smells…and the food, plus the hindsight-realisation of…‘jeez I’m lucky to be (still) alive.
‘Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have.”
– Doris Mortman
Philosophy and quietude has allowed me to recognise that the positive and negative experiences of life, that suffering and acceptance, are simply different sides of the same coin.
Knowing this means the pressure is now ‘off’ and that all the suffering, the obstacles & hurdles, and the Croc wearers that now I face is actually ‘workable‘.
Knowing it’s workable, has given me confidence back in myself, and inspires me to continue to remain steadfast, sober and disciplined to the rituals and routines that keep me on my path….the things which I value.
It’s exactly the things that lead us off our path, that keep us on our path.
The word ‘Buddha’ is a title, which means ‘one who is awake’ — in the sense of having ‘woken up to reality’. The only similarities I share with Buddha is perhaps the bald head and foolish grin…but maybe, just maybe I’m beginning to wake up…wake up to myself.
“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer.
What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
KINDNESS PATIENCE. DISCIPLINE. EXERTION HUMOUR