Category Archives: Freedom

Birthdays, and other ‘special occasions’

Something I’ve been thinking about for quite a long time, and even more so after writing in a birthday card for a friend recently;  is our ability, as humans, to place incredible emphasis on ‘dates’ and ‘occasions’ for some reason or another.  Now, I haven’t put too much thought into writing a card for quite a while and not since undergoing a lot of mental changes, so writing this proved not only a challenge but quite a thought-engaging process for me, which I wish to go into detail about.

I don’t have any problem with a celebration, in fact I love celebrating.  However, what I think our problem is, is this unreasonable view on certain days as somehow being more important than other days.  And then it becomes almost like an obligation to prepare for this day in some way.  It gets to the point where people are hurt, angry, resentful or whatever emotion when this particular day hasn’t gone to ‘plan’ or been ‘planned’ for by someone important to them.  ‘He didn’t get me anything for my birthday’, ‘My partner is going to be overseas on my birthday’, ‘I can’t believe you’re not spending Christmas with your family’, ‘this is terrible I can’t believe this is happening on x day’ and so on.  But then the opposite holds true, we feel so happy when things work out on that day.  But I ask, why?  Why do I need to put special emphasis on a day just because its ‘that’ day which society has deemed to be more important than another day.  The zen idea of letting go of attachments applies to this as much as any other attachment.

While I was writing this card, I kept thinking back to what it means to be living in the present moment, and it was hard to reconcile these thoughts because the whole point of living in the present is letting go of the past.  Which got me thinking, our ‘special occasions’ are always tied to a date in the past.  If that’s the case, celebrating a particular day for something that isn’t real anymore doesn’t make too much sense to me.  Why do we feel the need to place special focus on these dates?  If you observe nature, there is no such thing as this day or that day, simply now.  And what is happening in nature now is tied only to what is happening now.  The seasons are constantly changing, but not because nature thinks ‘oh, it was Winter before, now it’s time to be Spring’, but because of the relative position of the Earth in our solar system.

But it’s just the way it is right?  As humans, we like to celebrate for some reason or another.  We like reminders, we make time limits, having things to ‘look forward too’, yet it’s all imaginary in the end.  The only reason we even know what ‘day’ it is, is because we invented time.  And, I won’t go too much deeper on this thought as I have an idea for my next post based on it.  But I’ll state that:  By creating a calender, we have artificially created ‘dates’.  Try to picture any day of the week without reference to a calender.  It’s both mind-boggling and inconceivable.  But if it were the case, it wouldn’t be possible to have ‘special occasions’ tied to something in the past.  And this is what I attempted to express in this card.  That while it’s her ‘birthday’, none of that even matters because I’m celebrating every moment of our existence.

Advertisements

Little Dragon quotes

Feel like doing something different this post and posting a few of my favourite quotes from one of, if not, my biggest inspiration and role model – Bruce Lee.  (Little Dragon was the meaning of his Chinese screen name, Li Xiaolong)  To some, Bruce was just a pioneer of martial arts movies.  But he was so much more than that.  A philosopher, teacher, martial artist, actor, dancer, evolutionary, and much more.  Those who know him only from his appearances on screen only see the tip of the iceberg.  He has written a great deal of books, created is own style of martial arts (which by definition isn’t a ‘style’), taught martial arts and so on.  While I could write a great deal about him, in fact I probably will dedicate a post to his life, I just wanted to expose a few of his gems of insight: (in no particular order) [Also I’d like to point out that much of Bruce Lee’s life philosophies quite well tie together a great deal of what I have written about]

‘A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at’

‘I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine’

‘If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else.  It will spread into your work and into your life.  There are no limits.  There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them’

‘I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times’

‘Real living is living for others’

‘”What is” is more important than “what should be.”  Too many people are looking at “what is” from a position of thinking “what should be”‘

‘The “moment” has not yesterday or tomorrow.  It is not the result of thought and, therefore, has not time’

‘To understand one another, there must be a state of choiceless awareness where there is no sense of comparison or condemnation, no waiting for a further development of discussion in order to agree or disagree. Above all, don’t start from a conclusion’

‘Choose the positive.  You have choice, you are master of your attitude, choose the positive, the constructive.  Optimism is a faith that leads to success’

‘Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it’

‘Flow in the living moment.  We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing. Open yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo’

‘Absorb what is useful, discard what is not.  Add what is uniquely your own’

‘When we hold to the core, the opposite sides are the same if they are seen from the center of the moving circle. I do not experience; I am experience. I am not the subject of experience; I am that experience. I am awareness. Nothing else can be I or can exist’

bruce-lee-kick

Self-imposed limitations – I Can’t

Two words that I loathe more than any:  I can’t.  It should not even be grammatically correct to use those two words.  These are the words that will probably prevent 90% of people to do things they want.  To try new things.  To actually experience their lives rather than ride shotgun in an armour plated safety car.  So I wanted to express my feelings towards these words and why I feel you should remove them completely.

I’ll start with my alternatives: I will/will not, I have/have not, I do/do not.  These are either or, in or out, win or lose.  They do not imply being stuck in some sort of limbo between trying and giving up.  Which is exactly what I can’t is.  You can’t give up something you haven’t tried, but you can’t be trying at something you haven’t even started.  It is something that exist entirely in your head.  People will use it as an excuse for things they actually don’t want to do or have no real interest in doing, but they feign interest this way.  Like ‘Oh I wish I could wake up early but I just can’t’ ‘I want to be better at but I just can’t’ ‘I can’t play the guitar’ ‘I can’t  can’t can’t’etc etc.  And the problem begins before anything takes place, this mindset will then stop people from even attempting something.  So what is the solution?

A revolution is the only solution.  A shift from insecurities and doubts into confidence and excitement.  A movement from thoughts of failure to possibilities of success.  But most important, the idea that trying, attempting something is the only possible way to know whether you can or not.  But not just trying, actually putting your heart and soul into it.  Don’t even worry about whether or not you will fail.  If you fail you have two choices: quit, or think about what you did incorrectly and then adjust.  The author of The Practicing Mind puts it perfectly with his method called DOC, which stands for ‘Do, Observe, Correct’.  This is an incredibly useful tool.  While used extensively for dedicated practice, it can prove to be quite useful when beginning something.  It requires removing all judgement and ego completely.  The idea being is you ‘do’ what it is you try to do, say shooting a basketball.  You then ‘observe’ what happened.  Did you overthrow or underthrow?  Now, before any tiny bit of judgement like ‘damn I suck’ or ‘I’ll never get that hoop’, you immediately ‘Correct’.  Now correcting a mistake in something may require more knowledge in the field, however the idea stands:  do what is necessary to correct what went wrong and try again.  Wash, rinse and repeat.

This simple methodology can really be applied in any aspect of your life.  But it is extremely important to remove any judgement.  Forget about winning or losing, doing the right thing or hitting the target.  These things are not what are important.  The greatest athletes on earth have missed far more than they’ve hit.  You simply attempt it, see what went wrong and adjust accordingly.  If everybody applied this to any new endeavour, I don’t think ‘I can’t’ would be known anymore.  The issue of course is people don’t want to try something they already think they can’t do.  Most people want safe.  They are afraid of ridicule, of failing, of looking silly.  Unfortunately without removing these a person may never come close to achieving their full potential, which is the sad thing about life.  Summed up in another Socrates quote from the book that really stuck a chord after the passing of his friend:

‘Death isn’t sad.  The sad thing is: most people don’t live at all’

So dive head-first into life

No Ordinary Moments

As I left off with on my last post, one of the realizations that Dan experiences in the Peaceful Warrior is that in life, there are no ordinary moments.  Now the idea behind this stems not from moments themselves but how we perceive moments in time.  I’d like to delve deeper into this idea in this post to explain a little more about what it means from the book’s point of view and just how it can make an impact on your life.

So Dan’s realization comes at a point where he is told to learn on his own.  Soc tells him to ‘sit on a rock’ and ponder, and not come back to him until he has something of value, something incredibly insightful to tell Soc.  It begins with him telling him all kinds of things like ‘the hardest ones to love are the ones that need it the most’ and in comedic fashion, from the movie, ‘you put the peanut butter on the bottom NOT the jelly’, and goes on for some time.  In the book, he thinks back to a time when he was doing some workouts in the park at uni and noticed some girls ‘admiring him’.  A few seconds later while he was putting on his pants he somehow fell over and everyone laughed at him.  He laughed along with them and carried on.  The point he realized now is when you go through life, the only thing you have is right now.  This moment.  It’s always this moment.  And the point is that as humans we place greater value on certain ‘moments’ over others.  What he came to realize that we should hold every single moment as high as the next.  Our moment of putting on pants is just as important as performing a double back flip.  Because they are, at their respective times, in the moment.  Which is when he came back to Soc and says ‘there are no ordinary moments’.  The idea ties together the whole ‘present moment’ mindedness.  The secret is in letting anything past and future out of your mind.  Maintain your focus always on what is happening right now, no matter what it is.  Because nothing else really matters, or even exists.

I know this probably sounds a little crazy, but when you see the bigger picture it makes a little more sense.  The entire point of our consciousness is to be ‘alive’.  But the problem is people are often not even living.  As described in the movie ‘the sad thing is people spend a whole life time not ever really being awake’.  We are concerned with that big event next weekend, or how their boss yelled at them 2 days ago, or that new car we want to buy.  The reason this occurs is the mind taking over our thoughts, and it has become such a natural instinctive reaction for humans.  Something has happened, or will happen, and we start wondering about it.  Did I say the right thing?  Will she say yes?  Did I nail that job interview?  The theme behind these thoughts are they are not concerned with anything real.  Events either have or have not happened and these thoughts run wild.  They are focused on the past or the future, both of which are illusions.

The key to living in the present is killing off these thoughts.  Because when your thoughts are completely aligned with what is happening to you this very moment, then you are truly living; living in the present.  That is when real appreciate of the world can begin.  But how exactly do you stop your mind wandering so much?  While I hate using buzzwords, you will truly require a paradigm shift.  In other words, a complete change in your fundamental internal balance and thought patterns.

While I’ve yet to completely control it, I’ve come to a point where I have a fairly strong hold on my mind.  I think there are several realisations necessary before tying it all together.  The first is to see just how pointless and insignificant our tiny spec in the Universe is.  Actually not see, feel how small we really are.  This first realisation opens up to your mind the possibility that what we perceive as being ‘really important’, is actually quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  It is our mind that decides something to be important or not.  Just step back and consider just how epic the universe really is and how even our lifetime is barely a smudge on the timeline of the universe.  By applying this to your day to day events, you can start to see things much differently.  That guy who cut you off in traffic , that waiter who was rude to you, even further – that lecture your boss gave you, you can start letting go of the things that you feel are incredibly difficult to get through when at all times you can feel just how little it matters.

Once you’ve gained a grasp on this, the next step is to add humour to everything.  Now you might think how is that possible?  Surely there are serious events that you can’t make fun of or laugh at.  And you’re right, I don’t mean make a joke of everything.  But, upon understanding that our ‘difficulties’ are so minuscule, you can begin to see just how pointless it is getting overly worked up about things.  Then we can actually find a little humour in everything in a kind of ironic sort of way.  It will be extremely difficult to grasp this concept but just remember it is all about being happy.

The third, and final step, is the realization of one important universal law: Change.  Meaning -nothing ever stays the same and you cannot stop change.  People can spend a life time trying to stop things from changing.  This is the most important realization.  Every event is simply change, nothing more, nothing less.  When you come to realise that you can begin to let go of held up thoughts about whether something was right or wrong, because their is no right or wrong, no good and bad – only change.  When we stop resisting change you can feel almost liberated.  And this ties into the spirit of nature itself.  When you consider things that happen in nature, like the winds blowing, or rivers flowing, or any other thing that takes place in nature, you can notice something.  Everything flows with nature, not against it.  The trees will bend with the wind, the water flows down the river.  The way we approach change should mirror nature.  Flow with it, not against it.  The less you resist change and the more work with it, the more streamlined your life can be.  That is where unhappiness is mostly stemmed from.  When we begin to look at things like this it can be amazing the effect on your mood and happiness.

The key to tying it all together though is to choose happiness, always.  Described in the book as an unreasonable happiness.  But in order to do this you need to break free from the illusions of your mind.  Realize that we are a tiny dot in the universe and ‘bend with the wind’.  Add a touch of humour to this and you can stay happy through anything that life can throw at you.  And remember that this moment, right now, is all we have, it’s all that’s important, and it can never be ordinary.  Whether you are washing your car, giving a speech, working out, eating dinner – each moment is as important as the next.  Anything you are doing right now, is all that matters.  Approach life in this manner, and you will have no ordinary moments.

It is written

The last couple of days for me have been quite incredible.  And it’s not so much what happened but how things happened.  I thought I’d just write a quick post about it all and tie in with a term known as maktub.  For those who don’t know, this word is used in Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist – which is an amazing book I would recommend to everybody.  But basically, it’s an arabic word that means ‘it is written’.  I’ve wanted a reason to write about this and I think I have one now.

The idea is that everything in this world – no, the universe – has been written.  For a more western analogy, it is akin to the saying ‘everything happens for a reason’.  More importantly though, is that everything is written by the same hand.  The deeper meaning of it all that every single moment in your life, every tiny and seemingly insignificant occasion, every major and overwhelming event – has all been written, and written for a reason.  When you look at your life this way, you could do two things.  First, you could ignore it, it’s all fairy tale stuff anyway right?  Or second, you could apply it to your life, and realise that everything you do has it’s purpose, and approach every moment in your life with 100% of your spirit.

Now, I’ll explain a little more about why this has come about for me in the last week or so.  At the moment I’ve been playing around on my GoPro, making soccer videos and other things.  So about two weeks ago I film a game and the team we played against were absolutely incredible.  I had never seen skills in person like that before – pro videos yes, not in real life.  Anyway after the game I talk to a couple of the guys and asked if I could put videos up because I thought they were really good, and they were really happy for me to do that.  So that night I put up just a quick video, because I didn’t have too much time to make anything bigger, here’s the video in question:

As you can see, that goal was ridiculous.  But anyway, moving on, I didn’t really think about it too much after doing this.  Since then two pretty incredible things have happened.  First, I saw the guy in the video the next time we played Futsal.  He thought the video was really good and has now offered to pay me to do more videos for him.  I couldn’t really believe it and was never planning on making money doing videos.  I don’t even know if I’ll be able to do good videos for him, but I’m excited to try and see where it goes.  Now the next part of the story is still a little unbelievable for me.  There were two brothers on that team, also really great players.  My best mate had a house cooling down party on Friday night.  It turns out those two brothers are good friends with my best mate and were there that night.  I am still spinning out at how small the world is.  But, more to the point we chatted heaps and got along really well, and they were quite impressed with the way I played and now want me to play A grade outdoor soccer with them.  Which first, is incredibly flattering, as a player I’ve never considered myself special, I just play with all my heart.  But, it is also really exciting for me and opens up so many possibilities for the future.

So, the point of my post today is not to brag.  The point is that the universe works in mysterious ways and it really is written.  Chance encounters with strangers can have such massive impacts on your life.  I’ve taken upon myself to treat every conversation with a stranger as important as a conversation with the king.  Because you just don’t know what someone has to offer you, or what you can offer them.  And if you are hostile or rude on first encounter, the door closes extremely fast.  I can think back to that Futsal game, and things could have gone completely different if I let losing the game get to me and let anger out.  By keeping a happy and cool attitude and played the game, that door not only stayed upon, but was almost inviting me in.  And so, while that is a very personal event for me, I wanted to make the point that if you put 100% into every moment of your life, you just don’t know what could happen, but I guarantee whatever happens will be much better than if you just ‘let things happen’ or treat others badly because you had a bad day at work or get impatient.  And I’ll finish with a sentence used in The Peaceful Warrior which not only relates so well to the topic of this post, but also serves as a lead on to what my next post will be.

‘There are no ordinary moments’

Inner Meaning

Well my last post ended up proving to be more profound than I first thought.  So I thought it would be a good idea to continue on with one of the important themes from that.  Being the idea of having an internal purpose.  Two reasons why I want to expand on that.  First, I have just finished reading the book that The Way of the Peaceful Warrior movie was based on.  And it was probably the most incredible book I’ve read to date.  Second, I guess I’d like to provide a little more insight into what having an inner purpose  really means, where it may come from and, through things I’ve learned through that book, how to apply it across your entire life, so that every day you are not only motivated, but happy.  Because happiness is really the secret to life.  And the key to complete happiness is inside you, and it always has been.

The majority of people are trying to find this key in everything but themselves.  They look in their job, they look in their partners, they look in their achievements, their wealth, their kids, even their workouts themselves.  Their external surroundings.  You hear it all the time, and you probably say the same thing yourself.  After watching the movie and the reading the book, I’ve come to realize that happiness is a choice you make, despite anything going on around you.  Now I can tell you’re probably thinking ‘but bad things happen, I got fired, I can’t find a great partner, I’m in debt’ etc etc.  But when you think of things like a promotion, new job, a great wife, you think happiness don’t you?  And that is the fundamental problem – we as humans, label things good or bad, right or wrong.  I’ve realised I probably cannot do justice to the experience learned from this book in one blog post, but I will try to highlight some key points and apply to the intrinsic purpose.

One of the overall points the hero of the book had to learn was that a warrior takes action.  The master says ‘the warriors acts, the fool only reacts’.  It is through action that the warrior finds happiness.  And that term also means the action of choosing to be happy.  Now, to apply this to your intrinsic purpose, I’ll try making a comparison to the reactive fool and the active warrior.  The fool will react to social cues such as ‘you’re overweight’ ‘Ryan Gosling is soooo sexy why can’t you have a body like his’ and so on.  So, they react by going on a diet, working out, getting fit and all the rest.  They really give it their all, idealizing this outside influence a la carrot and the donkey.  But it generally doesn’t last.  They are trying to live up to external ideals, that may not even be synchronized with what they really want.  And so it is very easy for them to give up, saying things like ‘I’m okay with my weight’ ‘I can’t possibly look like Ryan Gosling’.  And the cycle can often repeat.

Now, in comparison, the warrior will act for no other reason than the action itself.  The choice of action reflects the warriors inner purpose.  For example, Dan in Peaceful Warrior is a gymnast.  In the beginning, he explains to Socrates (Soc) how hard he trains to try making the Olympics and that is his dream.  Soc, in the movie adaptation, in very few words breaks him down.  Dan says, in a very assertive and domineering voice – ‘I train 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year’.

Soc: ‘Why so much?’

Dan: ‘Are you serious?  I’m a heartbeat from making the qualifiers’

‘Qualifiers for what?’

Dan (Smugly): ‘Well, you ever watch the Olympics?’

‘Nope’.  And that was it

Well, you’re probably thinking who cares if he doesn’t watch the Olympics because millions of people do.  But the actual lesson is profound.

Dan was using these outside influences to motivate and give purpose to his training.  He was ‘chasing gold’.  But it is all an illusion, those things cannot really bring you happiness, and it’s the act itself that brings you real happiness.  What happens when you receive your gold medal?  That single moment in time is quickly passed by and can then make you feel empty inside.  Try applying this to yourself now.  Think back to any achievement you received an award or trophy for, even grab that trophy and feel it in your hands.  How do you feel?  Does it make you feel happy inside?  Do you feel like your now doing what it was you won the trophy for?  My guess is it doesn’t really bring any feeling to you.  In the end, it’s a piece of metal.

In Dan’s case he naturally loved gymnastics so the act of doing is all that is really necessary.  Once he realized this, his training evolved.  He devoted, and I now follow this principle, each training session to the act of training for training alone.  It wasn’t focused on winning a prize or making the qualifiers.  Because these external forces are beyond your control and will come and go.  However training, in whatever it is you choose it to be, exists every single time you do it.  It cannot be taken away from you any more then it can be given to you.  It is you.  This can apply to any single thing you do in your life, and in this case, to properly apply it to your workouts, you need to shift your focus from any external motivation and look inside you for the reason.

For myself, I love Futsal.  And as a player, I have finally evolved the way I play in an incredible way, because I now play for the sake of playing itself.  It doesn’t matter to me if we win or lose, doesn’t matter if the ref makes bad calls or I get injured.  Where not so long ago I would get angry or try to start fights very frequently.  But none of that makes a difference now.  As long as I’m playing (playing is most certainly a form of training) I’m at peace, and I will choose to be happy no matter what happens.  So I want you try this in your own life.  Think of something you like to do, be it sport, a hobby, work, whatever it is.  Break it down.  Do you do it because you want to win, because you want money, because you want fame?  If so, try to step back and think why you actually enjoy doing it.  Doing this you will surely learn whether you are doing something because you genuinely enjoy it or if you are really only doing it for some reward or recognition.  If the former, try to forget any result and enjoy each time you are doing it for doing it alone.  I guarantee you will not only find happiness in doing it, you may also find that you end up achieving more than when you were focused on just that.

Awareness

Something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot lately is the concept of awareness.  In particular spatial awareness.  This ties in a great deal with ideas of present-moment living which is another strong theme shared by the book on Practice and the movie I mentioned.  (Note – this is because they both are strongly influenced by Buddhism).  I’ll just briefly explain present-moment living for the purpose of this post as having complete control of your thoughts by keeping them on what is happening right now.  An extremely simple yet incredible example of this was used by Socrates in The Peaceful Warrior, when he pushed the main character off a small bridge into the water.

Understandably Dan was pretty angry at first, but as he started yelling at Socrates, Socrates would ask each time things like ‘what were you thinking of while falling?’  ‘Were you thinking about school?’  ‘Were you thinking about groceries?’  Until Dan responds, ‘I was thinking about the present.’  And that is the lesson to learn and what Socrates wants Dan to realise, is just like when he was falling, his thoughts should be on nothing else but the present, no matter what task is at hand.  Don’t look forward to the result, focus on every single movement at the present time and make every single movement count.  By doing this, you free your mind and can truly master what you are doing.

Now I wanted to summarise that a little bit to, hopefully, illustrate what I mean by awareness and how it can help you in many ways.  Stop and think for a second, without looking around, what is going on around you?  Can you give yourself a quick summary in your head of things like people around you, objects, sounds etc etc.  If you have to think really hard and maybe even cheat by having to look around better, then your awareness is fundamentally lacking.  What I guess I’m trying to say is at any given point I’d like you to be able to be completely aware of your surroundings.  You might think ‘what on earth is the point of this?  I apologize if it doesn’t seem clear yet but bare with me.

I’ll now use a better example, because having an awareness that somebody has just jammed the printer or your boss is on the phone is not particularly ground breaking.  Think about when you’re driving your car.  I believe accidents could be cut drastically if more people drove both in the present and with better awareness.  When you drive, what are you thinking about along the way?  Most people are only thinking about what’s in front of them, or in the direction they are going, their destination.

What I propose is to step back a little bit.  Be completely aware of everything around your car at any given time.  If you’re driving through a green light at an intersection, what’s happening on the road you’re crossing.  Are there any moving cars, or have they all stopped for their red light?  When looking right to give way when turning left, is there anything to your left?  Anyone behind you?  You may not care for things like this, or may feel weird thinking about it.  But just try it, even a little, next time you drive.  Try to feel what is going on around you.  Doing this takes both being in the present and being aware at the same time.  A great deal of accidents could easily be avoided this way.  This is regardless of who was or would be ‘in the wrong’.  An accident is an accident.  The event itself does not know right or wrong.  We are the ones who label it so.  But if an accident is avoided altogether, what do we call it?

The reason I have given those simple examples was really to give an easy way to practice awareness.  The best use for this gained awareness, for me, is on the Futsal court (for you it could be any sport or hobby or anything).  It allows me to feel the game in a whole new way.  Instead of just looking at the ball, I am aware of everything going on at any time.  The position of their players, the position of our players.  If the ball is coming to me I’m thinking ahead of where to place it next.  While that is generally what most good players do, the ability to do so is significantly increased when your natural awareness is stronger.  While I’m not perfect at this yet it is always something I work on to improve.

So go forth and be aware.