When M. Gandhi or Dr. King spoke of civil disobedience, they were greatly aware of the consequences of “an eye for an eye.” It does make the whole world go blind, but not just literally.
There’s a well known experiment in which monkeys in a cell were given electric shocks each time one of them tried to climb a ladder for a banana. This eventually conditioned the monkeys to prevent (even resort to fighting) anyone else who would climb the ladder. One by one however, each monkey was replaced with a new one; until the entire lot was of new monkeys. The electric shock was removed as soon as the first one was replaced, but the memory was already conditioned into reactionary behavior. So now, when one of the monkeys climbed for the banana, even though the electric shock was removed, the monkeys would fight out of reaction instead of reason.
Everyone was fighting and the reason was long forgotten. If we keep seeking revenge long enough, or fight with ourselves for a long enough time, we often become blind to the reason we started in the first place. An eye an eye, but why was the first one taken? Most of the time, the thing we believe taken from us is often still within our possession.
I’m quite sure there’s something you’ve been tolerating for a while.
I want to suggest an interesting experiment: the next time you feel close to telling someone off and telling them “I’m so sick of…” instead of expressing yourself with the deep-seated need of being heard and acknowledged, just do what you would’ve done in the first place and leave. Move on from that situation immediately instead of wasting more energy on this situation.
Chances are that if a person repeats a behavior, they might sometimes be rude, unaware of it; But most of the time they continue acting selfishly with no regard for you. In these moments, it is important to stand up for ourselves and create boundaries after we get better self-awareness.
Instead of trying to break down all the reasons about why the other person isn’t considerate, or is draining, just fucking end it. Let it die. And see what happens: will the person notice that the plant is dying and come back to water the relationship? And if they do, is it out of a purely transactional relationship, or some other attachment? Within this space you’ve created, observe everything. If the relationship is solid and great, this process will only deepen the bonds and strengthen the relationship (definitely apologize if you were wrong though). If it’s garbage, you’re already that much closer to the “exit”. Then, you won’t have to worry about things like tolerating people anymore; at least people who offer you no positives.
Honestly expressing yourself…it is very difficult to do. I mean it is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky and be flooded with a cocky feeling and then feel like pretty cool…or I can make all kind of phony things, you see what I mean, blinded by it or I can show you some really fancy movement. But to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself…now that, my friend, is very hard to do. –Bruce Lee
Is it exhausting to express ourselves? It is for me when I try to censor myself.
There are many steps between feeling an emotion and how we express it.
Taking an emotion that changes so constantly and trying to snapshot it with words, colors and/or music is already difficult enough.
Further processing how we feel into a socially acceptable package, and diluting the language to avoid offending others is tiring; and a disrespect to ourselves.
Say what you want and deal with the consequences. The truth will either strengthen meaningful relationships, or weaken superficial ones.
We are not living if we are not polarizing, embarrassing, exciting–anything. Don’t be a living corpse because you stopped expressing honestly.
Adventure is all around us, but the courage to go out on them is not.
New adventures means willing to look like a fool and having people make fun of us, because we’re doing things for the first time and voluntarily introducing stress into our lives. Who would want any of that?
Yet, adventure is the very thing we crave when we become accustomed to the monotonous repetition of our daily lives. On the other hand, those of us who live a life of frequent stimulation and movement fantasize about having a simple, predictable life that can be more easily managed and anticipated; because eventually, we become tired of searching for that next new thing, relationship or place.
The world is only as vast as our mind can envision. If we are prisoners of the past and future, we will seldom be allowed to exist in the present. We will always search to recreate nostalgia, or we will continue to move our anxieties into a future where we imagine a “better tomorrow.”
The real courage is to be here and now, to not compare ourselves to others; that way, we can achieve a level of freedom that others only dream about. To achieve that freedom, we must be willing to be misunderstood by the people we love who are prisoners to the opinions of others.
Their limitations are their own, we can only inspire others by achieving our own freedom.
-Getting an adrenaline shot administered by a trained healthcare professional
-Checking your voicemail
-Sharing a vlog, writing or art online
-Sharing deep feelings with a partner or friend
-Attempting to befriend someone new
-Driving home in traffic with the “low gas” light on
-Having a conversation with your parents or loved ones, explaining that even though you love them, they or their guilt no longer have power over you because there is no net positive that comes from controlling people with guilt. And also that what they feel about you is more a projection of themselves onto you, versus your own true worth because you are still uncovering and building your own life.
One of the earliest and most important things I’ve learned (and often forget) from martial arts is that even if we block the first attack, we’ll still get hit if we don’t move out of the way. This principle is true when dealing with the excessive negativity of others; maybe we’ll be able to counter a few negative comments with some positive ones, but if we don’t make it a point to move on from either the conversation or person, the unrelenting attacks will start to damage us.
The only way someone can make us stand there and take an emotional beating is if we are convinced by guilt to deserve it. No one is truly qualified to be the judge of another person, and are fully responsible for only ourselves. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Redeem yourself if you fucked up, but don’t just submit. Get moving.
Hello friends, and thanks for joining me today. This week, I wanted to do a breakdown on an excerpt from Swami Vivekananda. Alan Watts would often reference The Upanishads and Vivekananda when talking about the non-dualism of the universe and aspects of Eastern philosophy that the texts influenced (i.e. Buddhism, Jainism, etc). I won’t be going into Vivekananda’s biography or significance much here, but I wanted to break down an excerpt from one of his teachings that has helped me to understand myself better. I hope you find the following helpful as well:
“But the last and greatest counsel is that you need not weep at all. You need not go through all these ceremonies, and need not take any notice of how to regain your empire, because you never lost it. Why should you go seek for what you never lost? You are pure already, you are free already. If you think you are free, free you are this moment, and if you think you are bound, bound you will be.” –Vivekananda
Caterpillars & Butterflies
There are many people today who miss and grieve their younger days being gone. But according to Vivekananda, the best advice is that we shouldn’t be sad over losing ourselves, especially if we’ve never lost it. For some of us, “younger us” felt like a different person who was happier and more full-of-life, compared to the “older us” who feel isolated and damaged by traumatic life experiences. We are miserable over losing this energetic and better part of ourselves, but the thing we fail to see is that we are still one and the same person. We haven’t lost ourselves, because we are still here!
For example, when we look at a butterfly we often don’t imagine the caterpillar from where the butterfly came; it is still the same organism at a different point in its experience. You could say that the butterfly was always in the caterpillar, and/or that the caterpillar is always within the butterfly because we could not have one without the other. Similarly, parts of our life experiences makes up one entire life. There is no need to be saddened over the person we once used to be, for that same person is still within us– there is no need for sadness.
Sometimes, we’ll do creative and silly things to regain that person (or nostalgic experience) back, and call them “rituals.” Many of us have a morning or evening “ritual” that we feel will give us some control over the day, not realizing that our perspective is truly the control over everything. When we look back at ancient cultures, we laugh at their primitive traditions because now we can see the futility of what they were doing. Every Ancient culture had something strange, and we look at them as crazy because they were attempting to influence uncontrollable things like the weather and cosmos with rituals. This is what the Ancient Aztecs did, when they sacrificed living people for a bountiful harvest. This is what the Ancient Polynesians did, when they would cannibalize their enemies to gain their power. But even though we’ve come a long way from using physical barbarism to influence the unknown, it is the same fear of the unknown that drives us to be attached to form and routine today–now in an effort to control our brains. Today, we commit the worst mental barbarism with psychoanalysis, medication and expensive self-care and gurus. Perhaps future generations will look at what we are doing today with the same disbelief as we do of our ancestors today.
The Empire Of You
Many traditional philosophers would reference “empires” in their work because many of them would work as royal advisers to Kings and Queens. Sometimes, the rulers would be philosophers themselves, people like Marcus Aurelius or Emperor Asoka. These scholars were learning how to govern themselves so that, by extension, they could rule their empire just as effectively. While we do not have rulers and empires today, if we look at the word “empire” as our own personal life, we can begin to build, improve and manage different aspects of ourselves to engineer a better life. How we see ourselves is ultimately how we see the world.
Is life truly so painful, that many of us seek to be sedated with things like food, music, poetry, alcohol and drugs? What about life makes it so painful, that escaping it seems like bliss? I wish I knew. Yet we pursue our poisons in excess until they kill us: our love of food becomes heart disease and diabetes, our love of alcohol becomes failed organs and relationships, our love of drugs dulls our awareness and make terrible things seem okay. And what about poetry and books, where we live the memories of the authors instead of creating our own? We need higher and higher doses for the same escape each time.
Is reality really too much information to take in? So overstimulating, that we need to dull our senses to enjoy the beauty of it in small pieces? Perhaps there is no escape from making the choice of which poison we choose to escape the normal discomfort of reality. It’s much easier to create our own world which makes us ignorant of everything around us.
Just like how when we look at a rose, we ignore everything around it in order to focus on the Christmas of its red petals and green leaves, the thorns and its fragrance. It seems like the flower itself has a universe of its own that becomes more apparent when we ignore our own. Maybe we are looking for our own roses.
Today I’d like to talk about the concept of time and how it’s often valued less compared to money because of its intangible nature. Money is tangible and can be used to buy things that others can see: houses, cars, electronics–pretty much anything that can elevate us in our social hierarchy. But we need time (and energy) to make money; money we can always make more if we have time, but we can never make more time. At the end of the day, each minute we get back from our busy schedule is time that we can invest in ourselves.
If not yet, I hope you can begin feeling the empowerment that comes from being able to reclaim your time. And while it is true that many of us don’t have time for things we enjoy doing, it is also true that if we don’t make time for it, we will never have it. Before long, we will realize that we are becoming older; that time has slipped through our indecisive fingers. Now is the time to demonstrate courage and take back your time that is being stolen by manipulative people and useless gossip. Every moment, whether we give it to positive causes or negative feelings, our attention builds what comes tomorrow.
If there is anything faster than the speed of light, it is the speed of imagination. It can take billions of light years to travel anywhere in space, but only milliseconds to imagine being there: we can imagine travelling to the Sun, survive its immense gravity and heat, and get there much faster than on a spaceship (that has yet to be invented during our lifetime). Back on Earth, we can imagine being at the bottom of the ocean much faster than actually travelling there. Our thoughts and imagination are immensely powerful because they are not bound by physical limitations. And although thoughts may not be tangible, they do affect our lives in every way because our perspective of the world is the world we live in, and how we think about ourselves shapes our own unique experience and reality.
An increased mindfulness for the way we talk to ourselves can determine the type of energy we radiate into our personal lives. The nuclear bomb was possible once we understood the relationship between E=mc^2, in which c represents the speed of light and m represents mass. It took some imagination (which provided the framework for the scientific trials later) to understand that the larger the mass of something, the more potential energy it contains. Likewise a small object with great speed, like a bullet, could yield just as much energy. A nuclear bomb gets it energy from displacing the nucleus of a tiny atom. And yet such a small change in internal structure is enough to wreak havoc on entire civilizations. What if we began to think of our thoughts as powerful weapons?
Thoughts may not have actual weight, but they affect everything in our lives. Thoughts have an unquantifiable mass and they move at immeasurable speed. Thoughts lead to action, and action carries weight in our world. How we imagine ourselves and others shapes our own unique life experience. We can create immense positive energy by increasing the frequency of gratitude, kindness and patience in our lives. Or we can “nuke” positive thoughts about ourselves instantly with negativity, self-doubt and entitlement.
Just as the center of the stars have billions of nuclear reactions happening simultaneously, the center of our brains are constantly reacting a myriad of opposing thoughts and generating great amounts of energy. As Carl Sagan once said, “We are all made of star stuff.” It’s no coincidence that we are, in many ways, just like the stars and cosmic energies to which we feel so tiny. Our thoughts may seem like nothing, but our perspective is everything.