“Erase the print of imagination. Stop the puppet-strings of impulse. Define the present moment of time. Recognize what happens to you or to another. Analyse and divide the event into the causal and the material. Think of your final hour. Leave the wrong done by another where it started.” (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations 7.28)
Last night I was taking a walk around my neighborhood reflecting on where I am in life today. After a relapse in September of this past year, and moving from Asheville to Raleigh, I can say assuredly, that I am no longer immersed in blind vices, and that my disposition is toward the greater good. So what’s all that about? Well, I stuck myself in a halfway house for structure, temporarily, so I could force myself to work, adhere to a few rules, save money, and rebuild quickly what I pissed away that last month in Asheville. That’s where my focus is now, growing, learning, drawing on the things that have always worked, and taking a look at what doesn’t work, in regards to maintaining my self respect, integrity, and in becoming my “ideal” – a good person, fulfilling his potential!
What has been incredibly helpful, outside of finding a couple of smart good people to confide in and dialogue with, is having a routine “practice” in the morning and at night – like a morning and evening meditation. This practice was prescribed by the ancients. Now, mind you… 12 steppers, new agers, christian authors, self help gurus, monks, business leaders, corporate executives, and rednecks (maybe over generalizing here 😉 ) most likely have some kind of morning/evening ritual to collect themselves in connection with their place in LIFE. It’s a good thing! Be it a cigarette and cup of coffee staring out the window while skimming the news paper just being, in between stories, or be it “praying” for ones own happiness as well as their loved ones. Maybe it’s reading some recent self help literature, or walking the dog down that same quiet street every night before bed. It could be sitting still for 2o minutes relaxing while focusing on one’s breath. Whatever it is, it’s a form self maintenance. What do you think?
I’m in no place to say which practices work better, and I don’t know, and doubt if such a thing could be measured, because of the complex nature of values and world views scattered about a broad range of individuals. I have noticed, however, and can say from experience that a routine daily ritual associated with self growth helps me “deal” better with life, when I hear the white girls say, “I can’t even.”
So why can’t they even, anyway? Why do people complain? Why can’t people, as Seneca says, bring their mind to bear the hardships of life? I won’t go into everything that relates to these questions, for it is a lot to unpack. But what I will mention are the ways some types of social conditioning influences bullshit preconceptions in people. Flip on the tube dummy! Now, turn it off, go find a book and a trail somewhere and get to know yourself 😉 The second is a lack of mindfulness. (I pair mindfulness with CRITICAL THINKING here.) That objective look in the mirror at your psychological make up, which people fail to do, partially out of fear. The fear of difficulties one will encounter in attempts to surmount the emotional pains and truths of being alive RELATIONALLY to the BULLSHIT. Sadly too, people lazily just go with the flow of the habits they’re already accustomed to, co-existing with that socially conditioned world view which perpetuates more momentous bullshit, without questioning the VALIDITY of the excrement on the plate. Don’t eat the stinky stupid!
“I spy veggies from my high fructose soaked high chair.” ~ Anonymous Infant
So gee whiz! What can one do? Maybe cultivating a radical sense of (non passive) acceptance of a largely fucked up world where political corruption, greed, and control influence the masses, while on the other hand, having an appreciation for whatever moral conditioning, ethical education, be it taught or learned, that has helped you navigate successfully through the poop so far. I’ll throw out a few things that have helped me navigate through not only the reality of life as it is, in its physical, amoral nature, but also through the socially immoral parasitic landscape of human reality.
“The nature of what is!!!! The awe of being alive!!!! Questioning the meaning of your existence in relation to everything you can and can’t possibly ever fathom. What is the right thing to do? What does it mean to be a good person? Should you be a good person? “The pertinent questions every adolescent asks remain as important in ancient times as today. The philosophy of STOICISM helps me live out a meaningful life, one that I choose for myself, as I practice the principles therein. I can safely say, philosophy, in particular Stoicism, helped save my life.
(music in general)
There is a cathartic magic and medium in and through music which I can’t express. I continue to listen and create music daily. It has been an avenue for social change (as has art in general) to varying degrees. Music is therapeutic. It’s entertaining. It can be the path through which some troubled kid sorts out their resentment toward an abusive family. It can enhance lovemaking, put you in a trance, play with your emotions, and balance the feng shui of your mental life. Rock on Wayne!
Marvel Comic book titles shaped my imagination growing up. A very pleasant distraction and artistic way to see the world and play with normal every day situations in your head. Identifying with characters, their stories, and striving with them in your own life. I often, depending on the situation, model myself after a super hero or comic character so to conquer some life obstacle, big or small. 😉
You could probably lump all of these into the arts, with the exception of the science and psychology found in philosophy. They’re all integrated anyway, in how they’ve helped shape my life. I will mention a few more things in closing that have added to the effectiveness of my survival kit.
- Therapy: Be it talking with smart friends, or engaging with a support group somewhere.
- Exercise: Riding my bike, long contemplative walks, jogging, sex, tai chi, mindful breathing, etc.
- Staying curious: Always staying observant and asking questions. Reading what’s out there so to understand your world.
- Meditation: Sitting meditation. Paying attention to your breath. Walking meditation. Learning to pause and calmly do the next right thing, or not so calmly depending on the nature of the situation. (Sometimes, you have to say “HELL NO, I WON’T GO!” My buddy David tells me, citing big findings in neuroscience, that whatever freedom/free will/volition we, as evolved biological organisms with brains have, lies in the ability to VETO what we become consciously aware of – SAYING NO to things! That’s huge for me, especially in recovery!)
All in all, during my walk last night, as a result of regular mindfulness and Stoic practice, I felt fully alive… As if I had a clear understanding of who I was, where I was, the sensations around me, the direction I wanted to go in, and the resources I have within and without to endure life’s struggles and to thrive while persisting in my goals to pay it forward.
“Nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind as the ability to subject each element of our experience in life to methodical and truthful examination, always at the same time using this scrutiny as a means to reflect on the nature of the universe, the contribution any given action or event makes to that nature, the value this has for the whole, and the value it has for man – and man is an inhabitant of the highest City, of which all other cities are mere households.” (Marcus Aurelius’ Mediations, Book 3, 11.2)